How to accurately measure children’s medication

Survey: measurement more accurate if measured in milliliters

For many years, doctors have been using the teaspoon measurement system when it comes to prescribing medication for children, but a new survey says it’s causing a lot of confusion for parents.

Every year, the poison centers in the United States receive thousands of calls from people who are worried about the amount of medication given to their child and about 75 percent of those are parents who are usually confused by the units of measurement.

One mother says she knows how stressful it can be to make sure you are giving your child the right amount of medicine.

Gabby Hansen has been giving her 11-month old son, Blaine, Tylenol for the past seven months.

“He started teething at four months,” said Hansen.

At first, Hansen had a hard time figuring out how much medication to give Blain.

“We were giving him way less Tylenol then he needed and honestly what’s the point of giving it if it’s not going to help,” said Hansen.

Hansen said the confusion started with an inconsistent use of measurement.

“You have to convert it from micrograms to milligrams per mil and it’s kind of difficult,” said Hansen.

“For a lot of adults, the last time you’ve used terms like milligrams and milliliters is probably a high school science class,” said Rachel Arfstrom, a pharmacist at Cass Street Pharmacy in La Crosse.

For many years, health care professionals have been trying to use terms like teaspoon and tablespoon hoping parents might be more familiar with them, but a new survey suggests otherwise.

“The new study actually provides evidence that there were fewer errors made when the parents used the milliliter measurement rather than tablespoon or teaspoon,” said Anna Jackson, a doctor at Gundersen Health System.

Experts said there are several reasons for that.

“The problem is that when we say give somebody a measurement in teaspoons full, people have a tendency to go grab a teaspoon out of their kitchen drawer,” said Arfstrom. “There is no agency making sure that the tablespoon and teaspoons in your kitchen are standardized in anyway.”

Plus, the terms are easy to mix up.

“If you use a tablespoon you are actually dosing three times as much as you would be if you doing a teaspoon,” said Jackson.

To cut down on the confusion, many health professionals have started using milliliters as the standard measurement for liquid medication.

“Medication droppers, syringes or dosing cups, they have the exact milliliter markings on them so if parents use those, the doses can be more accurate,” said Jackson.

Making it easier for Hansen to make sure Blaine is getting the right dose of medicine.

It is important to make sure you are giving your child the right amount of medication. If you have any questions whatsoever, you are encouraged to talk to your doctor or pharmacist.

When picking up medication for your child, make sure the pharmacist also throws in an oral syringe or dosing cup, so you can be as accurate as possible.