Stirring research on spooning medicine

‘Tis the season to catch a cold and many turn to liquid cold medicine to calm the symptoms. A new study from Cornell University finds that using ordinary kitchen spoons when pouring medicine leads to an increased risk of under or overdosing. According to Mayo Clinic, a surprising 70 percent of people still use kitchen spoons when taking liquid medication.

195 students at Cornell University were asked to pour 5 milliliters (a teaspoon) of cold medicine into kitchen spoons of various sizes. The New York Times reports that first, the participants poured the medicine into an actual teaspoon to provide them with a better understanding of the amount. They were then asked to pour 5 mL into a medium-sized spoon and a large spoon.

Although the students seemed confident in their measurements, they poured an average of 8 percent under the prescribed dose when using the medium-sized spoon, and an average of 12 percent more than the correct dose when using a larger spoon. Brian Wansink, lead study author and Director of Cornell Food and Brand Lab tells Live Science:

“Twelve percent more may not sound like a lot, but this goes on every four to eight hours, for up to four days…So it really adds up — to the point of ineffectiveness or even danger.”

The study’s news release points out that the research for this study took place in a well-lit room during the day. Therefore, the risk of dosing error is even greater when pouring medicine in the middle of the night when you are fatigued and not feeling well. So be safe when pouring liquid medicine and use a proper measuring tool instead of reaching for that kitchen spoon. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem since most liquid medications now come with their own dosing cup.

This study is published in the January 5th issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.

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