Doctors are urging parents to ditch the spoon in favor of an oral syringe to measure medicine for young children, arguing that using spoons often leads to giving too little — or worse yet — too much of a good thing.

They say the best tool for accuracy is an oral syringe or dropper. Even dosing cups that come with many over-the-counter medications can pose a problem because the instructions often call for a teaspoon but the dosing cup is marked in milliliters, causing confusion.

The concern about dosing mistakes was recently highlighted in a New York University-led study that found that a whopping 84 percent of caregivers made one or more dosing errors when giving medicine to younger children.

Overdosing was the most common problem, with 68 percent of the 2,100 parents in the study making that mistake. Participants, mostly mothers, were responsible for caring for children 8 or younger.

“Overall, we found high dosing error rates,” the study authors wrote in the journal Pediatrics. Parents who used dosing cups greatly increased the odds of making a mistake. This was particularly true when pouring out smaller amounts of medicine. (Unlike adult remedies, children’s medicine most often comes in liquid form.)

“Our findings suggest that health care providers should encourage oral syringe use for the measurement of liquid medications, particularly when small doses are recommended,” the authors concluded. “This change would probably benefit all families.”

Possible side effects of improper doses of medicine include nausea, irritability and increased blood pressure.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommend parents use syringes, droppers or dosing cups over spoons when giving medicine to children. That’s because standard silverware varies widely in size.

Or in other words, not all teaspoons and tablespoons were created equally.


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