Top 10 tips for measuring over-the-counter liquid medications safely


topten spot-smOver-the-counter liquid medications can be found in practically every medicine cabinet. Surprisingly though, there’s not a standard way to measure liquid medicines doses.

All too often we resort to measuring liquids with household measuring devices like teaspoons or tablespoons, but these can provide inaccurate dosing since they aren’t calibrated for medicines. There are also syringes, dosing cups, droppers, and other measuring devices and some measure using a metric scale (milliliter) while others display household measures. If you are taking liquid medicines or administering them to a child, consider the following safety strategies to prevent errors:

  1. Never use household measuring devices (teaspoons, etc.) to give liquid medicines. They are inaccurate and may deliver more or less than prescribed. Today’s OTC liquid medicines are almost always accompanied with their own measuring devices.
  2. Use only the device that comes with the over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, such as an oral syringe or a dosing cup. These are calibrated to match the specific product labelling. In the event a dosing device does not come with the product, ask a pharmacist to recommend one.
  3. When administering OTC liquids to a child, be sure to know the child’s current weight. To get the most the accurate dose, it’s best to dose according to weight, not age. Tables are often present on the product label to help guide proper dosing by weight.
  4. Never read container labels or measure liquid medicines in a dimly lit or dark room or when you are distracted.
  5. When measuring the liquid medicine with a dosing cup, always be sure to look at it at eye level. Measure on a flat surface and not while holding in one hand.You may need to lower yourself to read the liquid volume.
  6. If using an oral syringe with a special ribbed adapter (shaped like a Christmas tree) that allows medication to be drawn directly from the bottle, be aware that this isn’t childproof. When using these products, always be sure to remove the adapter and replace the childproof cap after measuring the liquid. NEVER store the syringe attached to the bottle adapter
  7. After measuring liquid medicine, immediately replace the cap. If small children either live in your home, or will be visiting, be sure child-resistant caps are always locked into place.
  8. Always be sure to wash the dosing device after giving the medicine. If you fail to do so, bacteria can grow and cause contamination with any future use.
  9. It’s best to store both the medicine and dosing tool together. An oral syringe can be rubber banded or a dosing cup can usually be placed over the cap. This way you will always have the correct measuring device on hand when you need it.  Never use a device supplied with one medicine for a different medicine. This can lead to dosing errors. 
  10. Always store adult and child preparations of liquid medicines in separate areas. This will decrease the chance of accidentally confusing the containers with one another.

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Created on November 19, 2012