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Accidental Overdose: Parents Are Terrible at Measuring Kids' Meds

Parents aren’t doing a great job measuring out medications for their little ones — and the problem may be that we’re still using the so-called English system rather than switching to the metric system, a new study shows.

Busy multitasking parents make all kinds of medication errors, such as reading tablespoons for teaspoons, which results in three times the dose, or substituting a kitchen spoon for an actual teaspoon. That may at least partially explain the more than 10,000 annual calls to poison centers, researchers suggested in the study published Monday in Pediatrics.

The researchers found that when parents were given a prescription in teaspoons or tablespoons nearly 40 percent measured wrong, while more than 40 percent read the dosage off the prescription wrong. When prescriptions were written in metric units parents were half as likely to make mistakes. The findings suggest that medicines should switch to a milliliter-only standard, the researchers say.

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— Linda Carroll