From the Desk of Doc Smo – Getting the Dose Right!

In the era of computerized medical records, robotic surgery where surgeons don’t touch their patients, ICD-9 databases gathering statistics on millions of people in real time, I guess it is time to give up some of the “old ways” such as measuring medicine with a teaspoon. How twentieth century can you get? Teaspoons can be quite variable in volume. Johnny and Janie’s dose of medicine shouldn’t depend on your silverware pattern, should it? This is one of the conclusions of a task force called PROTECT (Prevention of Overdose and Treatment Errors in Children Task Force). They are strongly recommending that all pediatricians, pharmaceutical companies, and parents begin immediately prescribing and delivering liquid medications in metric volumes only! Teaspoons and tablespoons are out and milliliters are in. Furthermore, they recommend that we deliver medicines with a metric syringe rather than the less accurate measuring cups that come with so many medications used by children.


I know that we cling to the familiar; such behavior is human nature and gives our world more predictability. But when the health and safety of our children are at stake, it is time to change. As the task force points out, unintentional medication errors are a big problem in a society of 350 million people. Check out the statistics that they have gathered:


• Over 70,000 emergency department (ED) visits result from unintentional medication overdoses among children under the age of 18;
• One out of every 180 two-year-olds is treated in an ED for an unintentional medication overdose;
• Over 80% of ED visits among children under the age of 12 are due to unsupervised children taking medications on their own, and 10% of ED visits in this age group are due to medication errors;
• Over-the-counter medications are involved in approximately one-third of ED visits among children under the age of 12 [1].

Source cited below


Pharmacists got past their archaic system of measuring in drams, minims, and grains, so parents and doctors should be able to go metric in the 21st century. Put away those teaspoons and get out a good metric syringe to measure your child’s medicine. As we are learning, even medicines that are readily available like acetaminophen and ibuprofen may not be so benign, especially for children and especially at the wrong dose.


Check out other task force recommendations at the link that I have provided from the CDC.