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Liquid medication administration

Information

If the medicine comes in suspension form, shake well before using.

Do not use silverware spoons for giving medication. They are not all the same size. A silverware teaspoon could be as small as a half teaspoon or as large as 2 teaspoons.

Measuring spoons used for cooking are accurate, but they spill easily.

Oral syringes have some advantages for giving liquid medications.

  • They are accurate.
  • They are easy to use.
  • You can take a capped syringe containing a dose of medication to your child's daycare or school.

There can be problems with oral syringes, however. The FDA has had reports of young children choking on syringe caps. To be safe, remove the cap before you use an oral syringe. Throw it away if you do not need it for future use. If you need it, keep it out of reach of infants and small children.

Dosing cups are also a handy way to give liquid medications. However, dosing errors have occurred with them. Always check to make sure the units (teaspoon, tablespoon, mL, or cc) on the cup or syringe match the units of the dose you want to give.

Liquid medications often don't taste good, but many flavors are now available and can be added to any liquid medication. Ask your pharmacist.

Unit conversions

  • 1 mL = 1 cc
  • 2.5 mL = 1/2 teaspoon
  • 5 mL = 1 teaspoon
  • 15 mL = 1 tablespoon
  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon

References

Ryu GS, Lee YJ. Analysis of liquid medication dose errors made by patients and caregivers using alternative measuring devices. Journal of Managed Care Pharmacy. July/August 2012;18(6).

Updated: 12/4/2013

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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