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Using Kitchen Spoons for Meds Often Leads to Dosing Errors

Last Updated: January 05, 2010.

Using kitchen spoons to measure out liquid medicine leads to dosing errors that are small but could accumulate over time, according to a study in the Jan. 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

TUESDAY, Jan. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Using kitchen spoons to measure out liquid medicine leads to dosing errors that are small but could accumulate over time, according to a study in the Jan. 5 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Brian Wansink, Ph.D., and Koert van Ittersum, Ph.D., of Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., conducted a study of 195 university students who had recently attended the university's health clinic during the flu season and asked them to pour out a 5-ml dose of liquid medicine in a teaspoon, then a tablespoon, and then a larger-sized spoon.

Although the participants had above-average confidence that their pouring was accurate, they typically under-dosed by 8.4 percent with the tablespoon and over-dosed by 11.6 percent with the largest spoon, the researchers found. After pouring, participants believed the two doses would be equally effective.

"Whereas the clinical implications of an 8 to 12 percent dosing error in a 1-tsp serving of medicine may be minimal, the dosing error is likely to accumulate among fatigued patients who are medicating themselves every four to eight hours for several days," the authors write. "If a medicine's efficacy is tied to its dose, it is more effective to strongly encourage a patient to use a measuring cap, dosing spoon, measuring dropper, or dosing syringe than to assume that they can rely on their pouring experience and estimation abilities with kitchen spoons."

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