No Kitchen Spoons! Correct Medication Dosing

OTC Dosing Image

Over the counter (OTC) liquid medications for children are packaged with a diverse set of various measuring tools sometimes making it confusing for parents to ensure we are giving our children the proper dose. To add to the confusion, sometimes the recommended dose is written with different units (mLs, mg, or teaspoons) than the dosing device. For example, the box might have dosing in “teaspoons” and the measuring device be divided up into milliliters. This issue is not new but guidelines and protections around the problem are increasing. A win!

This has concerned me for a long time. To drive this point home even further, I gave a dosing conversion quiz on my blog to my colleagues in medicine (also parents) who even struggled to get the dosing correct. The dosing struggle is REAL to non-pediatric docs and parents everywhere.

For example, you may even see differences in devices that would seem to be standard across medications. The dropper that comes with liquid acetaminophen may look very different than the dropper that comes with liquid vitamin D or infant multivitamins. And remember, the most important way to avoid a dosing error is to keep the original dosing device with the actual OTC medication.

Two Things To Do Now With All Your Children’s Medicine:

  1. Resist the urge to grab a kitchen spoon!
  2. Attach the dosing device to the bottle of medicine with a rubberband!

You can always reference the below table, or even print it out and tape it to your medicine cabinet.

updated dosing chart


A 2014 study in the journal Pediatrics reported that every eight minutes, a child under the age of 6 experiences a medication error outside of the doctor’s office or hospital. This is an important call to action for parents to always exercise care when giving medicines to their children. If you are EVER concerned about dosing issues, don’t ever hesitate to call poison control for help (they are around 365, 24/7): 1-800-222-1222.

11 Tips To Ensure Correct Dosing:

  1. Always read and follow the label. When confused don’t hesitate to call your child’s provider or nurse for help.
  2. Always give the recommended dose BY WEIGHT and use the measuring device that came with the medicine.
  3. Only use the OTC medicines that treats your child’s specific symptoms.
  4. Never give two medicines with any of the same active ingredients. For example, if giving a OTC cough and cold medicine, make sure you read the list of ingredients before dosing it at the same time you dose acetaminophen. Sometimes the OTC combo medicines will have multiple ingredients you may also reach for in other forms.
  5. Never use cough, cold, or allergy medicines to sedate your child. Here’s my 2009 blog post on avoiding medicines for that reason on the plane.
  6. Never give aspirin-containing products to children and adolescents for cold or flu symptoms unless told to do so by a doctor. It is okay to use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for colds and flu-like symptoms.
  7. Do not use oral cough and cold medicines in children under four.
  8. Do not give a medicine only intended for adults to a child. Just doesn’t make sense and can lead to errors and mistakes.
  9. Stop use and contact your doctor immediately if your child develops any side effects or reactions to a medicine that concern you.
  10. Keep all medicines — and vitamins, too — up and away and out of your child’s reach and sight.
  11. Teach your child about using medicines safely. Tell your children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them. And the big whopper: never tell children medicine is candy to get them to take it, even if your child does not like to take his or her medicine.

5-13 know your OTCsThis post was written in partnership with In exchange for our ongoing partnership helping families understand how to use OTC (over-the-counter) meds safely they have made a contribution to Digital Health at Seattle Children’s for our work in innovation. I adore the OTC Safety tagline, “Treat yourself and your family with care all year long.” Follow @KnowYourOTCs  #KnowYourOTCs for more info on health and wellness.

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3 Comments to “No Kitchen Spoons! Correct Medication Dosing”

  1. Peter Elias says:

    Thank you. Nice job. As usual.

  2. Lauren says:

    Since Acetaminophen infant drops are no longer available, could you make a new chart without the drops. Can be confusing and possibly search needlessly for the infant drops.
    So glad you’ve brought this subject up. It’s too easy to grab the kitchen spoon!

  3. Tara Polek says:

    I have that dosing chart printed out and taped in my kitchen so we can keep track of appropriate dosing for 2 children of different ages. It is a lifesaver!