Use Proper Dosing Instruments When Taking Medications

Koert van Ittersum, an assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology and Brian Wansink of Cornell University published a letter in the Jan. 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine citing new research that suggests that you should steer clear of using ordinary spoons when taking or giving liquid medicines, because the practice raises the risk of potentially dangerous dosing mistakes. OK guilty on that one. But how like us to take some of this for granted.

Just as the size of a plate influences how much one eats they found that utensils also have an effect on dosing. “Clearly we know that there are a lot of people — despite all the alternatives they are offered — who open the kitchen drawer and grab a spoon to serve up their liquid medicine,” observed Wansink.

The researchers tracked the dosing behaviors of 195 college students who had visited a university health clinic around the time the study was launched.

Each student was first asked to pour out exactly 5 milliliters of a liquid cold medicine, using a normal-sized teaspoon so they could clearly visualize how much that amount would be.

Following that exercise, each participant was randomly asked to attempt two more medicine pours: one into a medium-sized tablespoon and a second into an even larger spoon. Confidence levels were assessed to see how secure the students were in their ability to correctly pour the proper dosage.

Despite the fact that most students had “above average” confidence that they had poured accurate doses while using one or the other tablespoon, the authors found that dosages actually varied depending on the size of the spoon.

When using the medium-sized tablespoon, the students underdosed by more than 8 percent, on average. And when using the larger tablespoon, they overdosed by nearly 12 percent, on average.

So the lesson for today for you and loved ones – stick to more reliable dosing instruments, such as measuring caps or droppers, dosing spoons and/or dosing syringes when administering liquid medicines.

For additional information on liquid dosing recommendations, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.