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Get the Most Out of Your Liquid Medicine

Published: February 6, 2010

About 70 percent of us grab silverware spoons to take liquid medicine, according to researchers. Bad idea.

Our Post pharmacy consultant relates this story:

“My friend reached for a spoon from the silverware drawer when she needed a dose of cough syrup. ‘What are you doing?’ I rather rudely exclaimed, expecting her to suggest that the spoon must be about the right size. But her response really surprised me. She said, ‘I thought it might look silly if I used the cheap spoon that came with the medicine!’”

Whatever the reason may be, using a silverware spoon often means getting too much or too little medicine, explains the pharmacist.

In a recent study, college students first measured out one teaspoon of liquid medicine into an actual teaspoon. Then they were asked to pour one teaspoon of the drug into a medium-sized spoon and then a large spoon.

The results? Even in a well-lit room in the middle of the day, participants poured an average of 8 percent less than prescribed into the medium spoon, and nearly 12 percent more into the larger spoon.

And in the middle of night, when you’re feeling miserable or stressed because a child is crying, the probability of error is undoubtedly much greater, said the Cornell University research team.

Getting the wrong dose of medicine may lead to ineffectiveness, or even danger. For an accurate dose—and the best relief—always use a measuring cap, spoon, dropper, or syringe. And if the pharmacy provides one, please use it.

The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

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