Are You Measuring Your Children’s Medicines Accurately? (Archived Pedcast)


Today’s pedcast will be shorter than normal but of course, no less important or practical. Recently, I found an article that revealed some wisdom about how parents can improve the accuracy in their measuring of liquid medications that they give to their children. Getting the dose just right is an essential skill of parenting and one you must master. So stay tuned.  You don’t want to miss this important installment of Portable Practical Pediatrics.

Today’s pedcast is being brought to you by the wonderful musicians who created the introductory music for Portable Practical Pediatrics, Duo Musagete- You can hear this track and other music, beautifully performed on their album, Bach to Beaser. I recommend that you get a copy today. I am sure that you and your family will enjoy their music. Find it on Amazon.

Musical Intro

It is Really Important to Measure Your Children’s Medicine Doses Accurately?

Ok, you are probably wondering why is it so important to measure medications accurately for your children? Because they contain biologically active ingredients that cause physical changes in your child’s metabolism. That’s why! And you only want to cause the changes that you intend. Get the dose too low and you won’t get the therapeutic effect you want. Get the dose too high, and you are much more likely to cause side effects of that particular medication. No, we want to get the exact effect that we are after. If that is lowering your child’s body temperature, let’s do that correctly. If it’s changing the bacteria that is growing in their middle ear causing an ear infection, let’s make sure we get that peak antibiotic blood level where it needs to be to be most effective, but no higher. A lot of effort and energy has gone into determining the exact right dose for your child’s weight and size for all medications so you need to do your part and make sure you follow the directions and deliver the medication as accurately as exactly as possible.

Think Metric

If your child’s prescription is written using a certain number of teaspoons of medication to be administered, ask your child’s doctor why they are writing the prescription that way. This method is very 20th century and old fashion. Prescriptions need to be written only using the metric volumes of milliliters or cc’s. If they are still writing prescriptions using English measurements, your child’s pediatrician needs to move into the 21st century. Yes, in the past decade, there has been a concerted effort to have all healthcare professionals write medication directions using metric volumes. English measurements of ounces are just not accurate enough. You learned those metric volumes and weights in elementary school. Put that education to work. Make your 5th grade teacher proud of you. Milliliters and milligrams for you guys, all the way.

What Is the Best Device to Measure Medications for Your Children?

OK, I have a confession- that article that I told you about in the introduction, it was actually written in 2008.  I admit, it is not hot off the presses but important, nonetheless.  In the article, the authors looked at how parents administer medications; spoon, dropper, measuring cups, or oral syringes. As I said before, spoons are totally out for measuring medications for children because they are totally inaccurate. Your great grandma did things that way but I want you to forget about using her method of measuring medications. Measuring with a spoon gives very inaccurate measurements.  As this article pointed out, spoon measured volumes varied from 1.5ml all the way to 9ml- a 600% difference. Don’t even think about getting out a spoon to give your child a medication. Fortunately, most parents in the study chose to use either a measuring cup or an oral syringe, not spoons. Here is the big point of the study; it turns out that parents got the dose right much more often using the oral syringe than they did using the oral cup to give their children medications. There is a lesson here. Take note!

Get It Right!

So here is the bottom line- think metric and let’s get the dose measured and delivered as accurately as possible. It turns out that in the practical world, an oral syringe is the best way for parents to give accurate doses of medications to their children. And remember; please don’t hesitate to ask your pharmacist for help if you have any questions about how to measure your child’s medication dose. I know it can be confusing but it is important to get it right, especially with those smaller children and infants.  And before we leave this subject, one final tip from yours truly; when multiple caretakers are giving medication to one sick child, make sure you take care not to inadvertently repeat a dose that has already been given by someone else.  This is a common error I see parents make and one that you need to take care to avoid.


Well, I don’t call it Portable Practical pediatrics for no reason. I hope that discussion was helpful. If you enjoy exploring pediatrics with pedcasts, please take a moment to help the cause by liking posts on Facebook and iTunes and maybe even write a review. And remember, you can always share episodes with anyone. This is Doc Smo, recording in studio 1E, that’s my first child’s bedroom on the east side of my house, hoping the right dose will ensure, your child’s speedy cure. Until next time.