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How to Correctly Measure Kids Medicine Doses

Fancy Photography for Veer

It's 2:48 a.m. You're struggling to read the instructions on the acetaminophen bottle in the light from the fridge while your feverish tot cries. The directions say she needs one measurement, but the dropper has markings for other amounts. Huh? You're supposed to figure out mathematical calculations in the middle of the night? (As if the childproof caps weren't difficult enough.) A new study found that a whopping 99 percent of kids' liquid medicines contain confusing inconsistencies between the dosing instructions listed on the bottle and the markings on the measuring device, including missing markings, superfluous markings, atypical units of measurement (drams or cc's, for example), and nonstandard abbreviations. Those inconsistencies can lead to overdoses, and that can be dangerous; the wrong amount of acetaminophen, for example, given multiple times over several days, can increase the risk of liver toxicity, says H. Shonna Yin, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at New York University School of Medicine and the author of the study. Here's how to make sure you give your child the right dose every time:

  • Buy your own measuring devices (dropper, dosing spoon, oral syringe, or cup) so you don't have to rely on those provided with the medication, and then familiarize yourself with the appropriate dosages for your child.
  • Don't use kitchen spoons as substitutes for teaspoons or tablespoons. They're highly inaccurate, says Dr. Yin.
  • If you're having trouble figuring out how much medicine to give your child, ask the pediatrician, no matter what time it is.

Handy conversions:

  • 5 Milliliters (mL) = 1 Teaspoon (tsp)
  • 7.5 mL = 1 1/2 tsp
  • 10 mL = 2 tsp