measurement of medicines

Here are some tips on measuring liquid medicines for children.

First tip: do not use an ordinary teaspoon.

  • they are not graduated to measure fractions of a teaspoon properly
  • teaspoons from the kitchen vary widely in volume from 4 ml to 10 ml (a standard teaspoon is 5 ml)
  • if you avoid the kitchen drawer, you will also steer clear of a common error: mistaking a tablespoon for a teaspoon (giving three times the proper dose)

The best way to measure medicine is with a graduated spoon or syringe. These are available at any pharmacy, or if you remember to ask at your doctor's office you may get one there. These are marked with graduations for both milliliters (ml) and fractions of a teaspoon and typically hold 5 ml - one teaspoon. Remember that milliliters (ml) and cubic centimeters (cc) are the same thing. Some conversion factors for teaspoons and milliliters:

1/4 teaspoon 1.25 ml
1/2 teaspoon 2.5 ml
3/4 teaspoon 3.75 ml
1 teaspoon 5 ml
1-1/2 teaspoon 7.5 ml
1 tablespoon 15 ml

Some liquid medications are measured in fractions of a milliliter. For measuring such small amounts of medicine, your doctor may give you a 1 cc syringe (there is that cubic centimeter thing again - remember, it is the same as a milliliter - ml). If so, make sure the doctor or pharmacist shows you exactly which mark to use on the syringe. A felt pen mark or a piece of tape are the least prone to error. If you do not have a syringe, you can still measure small amounts of medicine using a Tylenol® or similar acetaminophen dropper. Recall that the dropper is generally marked 0.4 and 0.8 ml.

0.2 ml 1/2 of the 0.4 mark
0.4 ml the first mark on the dropper
0.6 ml halfway between the 0.4 and 0.8 marks
0.8 ml the second mark on the dropper
1.0 ml the second mark on the dropper plus half of the first mark
1.2 ml 0.8 ml plus 0.4 ml - you get the picture

Of course, some droppers are marked 0.3 and 0.6 ml. These droppers can be used just as well to approximate a dosage fairly accurately.

In case you are worried about the slight amount of error introduced by eyeballing a measurement between two lines, remember that some medicine sticks to the dropper, some is spit out by the child, etc. More precision is ordinarily not needed; if it is, your doctor will be sure to give you a syringe to measure very precisely.

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