Have a sick kid? Don’t reach for the kitchen drawer to dose your kid with medication. Pediatricians are pushing back on the practice of using teaspoons and tablespoons to measure out medications.

The best way? Using the metric system. Milliliter dosing for liquid medications given to children.

“Metric dosing is the most precise way to dose medications and prevent overdoses,” said Dr. Ian Paul, lead author of a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Switching to milliliters makes sense due to the rise of accidental overdoses in children. Every year, more than 70,000 kids end up in emergency rooms due to accidental medication overdoses.

It’s an easy mistake to make. Using a kitchen spoon incorrectly measures the medication. Or, the parent using the wrong spoon to measure the medication – replacing a tablespoon when a teaspoon is called for. Honest mistakes leading to serious consequences.

The easiest way to fix the problem is to rely on oral syringes. Cheap, and infinitely more accurate. No guessing on the spoon from the drawer. Is that about a tablespoon?

When it comes to liquid medication for your kid, ‘about’ should never enter the equation. Using oral syringes has actually been a recommendation from the Academy of American pediatrics since 1975.

This new policy statement goes further and recommends a complete switch to the metric system, using milliliters with the abbreviation mL.

Measuring Medication

Not only is the switch for safety, it guarantees clarity across the spectrum of children’s medications. There are currently over-the-counter medications that offer dosing instructions in mL, but have an oral syringe marked in teaspoons and tablespoons.

Research has found parents who use milliliters make fewer mistakes when giving their children medications.

The new policy statement outlined the proposed guidelines. Medications should be dosed to the nearest 0.1, 0.5 or 1 mL. Only the mL abbreviation should be used. A zero should precede any decimal, but no zeroes should follow the last number after a decimal.

Pharmacies should provide an appropriate oral syringe (size) when dispensing medications, and over-the-counter medications should offer mL syringes for medications that use milliliter dosing instructions.

The switch is a needed one. 70,000 kids landing in the ER for accidental overdoses is an extreme number. Making the dosing instructions uniform and in mL will force everyone to use the oral syringes.

It’s time to stop reaching into the kitchen drawer for a spoon.


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