The danger of a spoonful of medicine

Incorrect doses with spoons included giving too much and too little, which can both be dangerous - research.
Photo / Thinkstock
Incorrect doses with spoons included giving too much and too little, which can both be dangerous - research. Photo / Thinkstock

Using spoons to measure medicine can lead to potentially dangerous dosing mistakes, according to new research.

A study published online in Pediatrics underscores recommendations that droppers and syringes that measure in millilitres be used for liquid medicines - not spoons.

The study involved nearly 300 parents in the US with children younger than nine.

The youngsters were treated for various illnesses at two New York City emergency rooms and sent home with prescriptions for liquid medicines, mostly antibiotics.

Parents were contacted afterward and asked by phone how they had measured the prescribed doses. They also brought their measuring devices to the researchers' offices to demonstrate doses they'd given their kids.

Parents who used spoonfuls "were 50 per cent more likely to give their children incorrect doses than those who measured in more precise millilitre units", said Dr Alan Mendelsohn, a co-author and associate professor at New York University's medical school.

Incorrect doses included giving too much and too little, which can both be dangerous, he said.

Underdosing may not adequately treat an illness and can lead to medication-resistant infections, while overdoses may cause illness or side effects that can be life-threatening.

Almost one-third of the parents gave the wrong dose and one-in-six used a kitchen spoon rather than a device like an oral syringe or dropper that lists doses in millilitres.

The medicine bottle label often listed doses in teaspoons. Parents often assume that means any similar-sized kitchen spoon, the authors said.

- AFP

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