A new push is on to change child medication dosages to milliliter. In a new study published in Pediatrics, researchers tracked over 10,000 annual calls to poison centers because of wrongly administered dosages of oral children medication. The main culprit? The confusion between a teaspoon and a tablespoon.

The issue with the teaspoon or tablespoon is that parents will often reach for a kitchen spoon. I’m an adult and I do that. Those plastic dosage cups are like the socks of the medicine cabinet. They disappear rather fast.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Shonna Yin of NYU, talked about the need to push towards milliliters for dosing. “A move to a milliliter preference for dosing instructions for liquid medications could reduce parent confusion and decrease medication errors, especially for groups at risk for making errors, such as those with low health literacy and non-English speakers.”

In the study, 287 parents were observed giving medication to their children. Over the course of the study, 39 percent of parents incorrectly measured the dose, and 41 percent made errors in measuring what the doctor prescribed.

If the directions called for a teaspoon or a tablespoon, parents were 2.3 times more likely to measure out the wrong dose. Parents were 1.9 times more likely to incorrectly follow the prescribed dose from the doctor.

A further issue with kitchen spoons is that oral child medication is often based off weight. Using an inaccurate kitchen spoon is likely to increase the odds of something going wrong.

To combat the problem, pharmacies have begun issuing dosing instructions via milliliters. The pharmacies are also including oral syringes that are marked with the correct dosing level.

Yin is pushing parents not to be afraid to ask the doctor or pharmacy for help with dosages. “Parents should ask their doctor or pharmacist to tell them the dose in milliliters instead of teaspoons and tablespoons,” she said. “Parents should also make sure to use a dosing device, like an oral syringe, dropper or dosing spoon, rather than a kitchen spoon, to measure out the dose.”

Most pharmacies have dosing devices, such as the syringe, on hand to aid parents in medicating their kids. If they don’t provide it proactively, all you have to do is ask. They will show you how to use it.

Kids are more susceptible to over and under doses. Toxicity levels can increase quickly if the drug being administered is just a fraction over what is prescribed. So, next time you are at the pharmacy, pick up one of the oral syringes.

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