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Carrington College Blog

Unexpected Problem with Medication Measurement

April 3, 2015

Using teaspoons and tablespoons to measure childrens medications can be dangerous.Certified medical assistants may want to take note of some recent developments pertaining to children’s medicine. It seems that a common mistake in administering liquid medications to children can lead to overdoses.

The problem appears to stem from misinterpreting instructions on medicine labels, but can be easily avoided by simply converting measurements to the metric system. Make sure that you, your spouse, your child’s physician and anyone else who might administer your son or daughter medicine are aware of these changes.

The Problem

In short, the measurement issue has arisen due to a series of misunderstandings regarding liquid volume. According to Consumerist, most children​’s medications come in liquid form, requiring that they are measured in either tablespoons or teaspoons.1 Unfortunately, many parents make the common mistake of not actually measuring out these medications with the appropriate spoon.

Instead, they simply employ a normal kitchen spoon, leading to an unintentional administering of too much medication. While this might not be a problem for adults, these small overages in medication can be extremely problematic for small children. In fact, Yahoo Health has reported that tens of thousands of children are admitted to hospitals each year for unintentional overdoses.2

The Solution

Expectedly, the solution is simply a call for heightened precision when it comes to measuring children’s medication doses. While converting measurements to the metric system would allow for an incredible uptick in dosage accuracy, many American producers have yet to adapt to the system. In speaking with Yahoo, Ian Paul, a Pennsylvania Pediatrician leading the effort to use metric measurements, summated this point:

“Even though we know metric units are safer and more accurate, too many healthcare providers are still writing prescriptions using spoon-based dosing,” said Paul. “Some parents use household spoons to administer it, which can lead to dangerous mistakes.

Impact on the Medical Community

While the ultimate impact that this realization has on the medical community is yet to be made clear there are already some moves being made. Consumerist has reported that the American Academy of Pediatrics is calling for new standards in labeling children​’s medications. Further, multiple outlets are advising parents to speak with their children’s doctors regarding proper measurement techniques.

1) Moran, Chris, The Consumerist, ‘Pediatricians Say Using Teaspoons & Tablespoons for Kids’ Medicine Leads To Overdoses,’ 3/30/2015, http://consumerist.com/2015/03/30/pediatricians-say-using-teaspoons-tablespoons-for-kids-medicine-leads-to-overdoses/

2) Yahoo! Health, ‘The Dangerous Mistakes Parents Make When Measuring Kids’ Medicine,’ 3/30/2015, https://www.yahoo.com/health/the-dangerous-mistake-parents-make-when-measuring-115028700553.html

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