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Doctors: Use Spoons in the Kitchen, Not for Kids' Medicine

The Short of It

In a policy statement released today, the American Academy of Pediatrics says parents should use metric dosing when giving their kids liquid medicine. They warn that relying on household tablespoons and teaspoons could result in a dangerous overdose.

The Lowdown

When dispensing meds to your child, it's easy to grab a kitchen spoon, but don't do it, says the AAP. Instead, reach for a medicine cup or syringe with metric measurements on it.

"Spoons come in many different sizes and are not precise enough to measure a child's medication," said pediatrician Ian Paul, M.D., FAAP, and lead author of the policy statement. "For infants and toddlers, a small error—especially if repeated for multiple doses—can quickly become toxic."

More than 70,000 kids visit ERs every year because of accidental overdoses. Millimeters can be confused as teaspoons, and teaspoons can be misread as tablespoons, which are about three times larger. There's too much confusion with different standards of measurement and differently sized spoons, says the organization. And the ones you use for cereal aren't made to measure anything accurately.

"If a parent uses the wrong size spoon repeatedly, this could easily lead to toxic doses," said Paul.

The Upshot

To be safe, metric is the way to go. A recent study said significantly fewer dosage errors occur when parents use mL-based dosing rather than when they use teaspoons or tablespoons.

The AAP is calling for medication companies to stop using teaspoons and tablespoons in dosage language completely and to only use millimeters to the nearest 0.1, 0.5 or 1 mL.

So grab a metric medicine measuring cup or syringe from the drugstore and forget about pouring your kids' medicine into anything else.

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