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‘Spoonful’ Measurement for Medications Could Spell Trouble

A study claims that imprecise measurement can be the cause of potentially dangerous dosing mistakes, contrary to the song which says a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.

Published online Monday in Pediatrics, the results recommend that droppers and syringes that measures in millilitres be used for liquid medicines and not spoonfuls.

Involving nearly 300 parents which were mostly Hispanics, the study with children smaller than 9 years old. The youngsters were treated for many illnesses at two emergency rooms in New York City and sent home with prescriptions for liquid medicines which were mostly antibiotics.

Afterwards the parents were contacted and inquired by phone how they had measured the doses prescribed. They also brought their measuring devices to the offices of researchers to demonstrate the doses they give to their kids.


Spoonful of Medications Could be Dangerous, Study Photo Credits: Flickr

Spoonful of Medications Could be Dangerous, Study
Photo Credits: Flickr

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

Too much and too little were the incorrect doses which can be dangerous, Mendelsohn said. Underdosing may not treat and illness adequately and can lead to medication-resistant infections, while overdosing may lead to other illness and side effects which can also be crucial. The study does not cover data on any ill effects from dosing mistakes.

Almost one-third of the parents did not give the proper does and one in every six made use of a kitchen spoon instead of a device like an oral syringe or dropper that lists doses in millilitres.

Less than 50% of the prescriptions specified the number of doses in millilitres and even when they did, the medicine bottle label often listed doses in the form of spoonfuls of teaspoons. According to the authors, parents often assume that meant any similar kitchen-sized spoons.

“Outreach to pharmacists and other health professionals is needed to promote the consistent use of milliliter units between prescriptions and bottle labels,” the authors said.


About Enozia Vakil

Enozia Vakil is an online entrepreneur, writer, editor and an avid reader. She has been associated with some of the best names in both online and print media, and holds a degree in Alternative Medicine.