- Yin HS, et al. Acad Pediatr. April 26, 2016, http://bit.ly/1NwYtxF.
Parents were over four times more likely to choose a kitchen spoon to measure prescription medicines when the dosage was listed as “teaspoon” or “tsp” rather than in metric units, according to a randomized, controlled study of 2,096 caregivers.
Since 1975, the Academy has recommended using standard tools such as oral syringes and droppers to dose liquid medication. Recently, it joined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in calling for the use of only milliliters or mL on medication labels. Some are concerned, however, that metric-based dosing could lead to confusion and called for more research before eliminating the term teaspoon.Parents were more likely to choose a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medication if the label instructions used the word “teaspoon” or abbreviation “tsp,” a recent study found. The Academy is calling for the use of metric terms only.
This study aimed to determine whether the unit of measurement on a drug label affected a parent’s choice of dosing tool.
English- and Spanish-speaking parents of children ages 8 years and younger were recruited from outpatient clinics around the country to participate in the study.
Parents were shown a medication bottle label with one of the following units of measurement: mL only; mL and tsp; mL and teaspoon; and teaspoon only. They also were shown pictures of a kitchen spoon, kitchen tablespoon, dosing spoon, measuring spoon, dosing cup, dropper and oral syringe. Then they were asked which tool they would use to give their child the right amount of medicine. Researchers also assessed parents’ health literacy levels.
Almost 80% of participants lived in households with an annual income of less than $40,000, and about three-quarters had low or marginal health literacy.
Results showed parents were more likely to choose nonstandard dosing tools if they were given medication labels with dosages listed as teaspoon or tsp rather than mL only (27.7% vs. 8.3%). They also were more likely to choose a kitchen spoon if the word teaspoon was spelled out rather than abbreviated.
Parents with low health literacy were more likely to choose a kitchen spoon compared to those with adequate health literacy (25% vs. 18.1%).
“Our study findings show that the units of measurement used on prescription medication labels heavily influences parent choice of liquid medication dosing tool,” the authors concluded.