The Dangers of Liquid Medication Measurements and How to Avoid Them

Mother Giving Child Cough Medicine

Nearly half of all parents get their children’s liquid medication measurements wrong. In fact, one study found that four out of five parents made at least one error when using either a dosing cup or oral syringe. The miscalculations ranged from small to more than twice as much as directed. This would be a problem when administering medication to anyone, and it is especially dangerous when children are involved. “When it comes to small children, you can easily accidentally overdose and that can have dangerous consequences,” said Angela Flores. She is a clinical pharmacist with Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group.

Here are some steps you can take to make sure you give your child the correct dosage and help ensure their safety:

Double-Check Your Measurements:

Dosing cups and oral syringes are the most common types of tools that accompany Liquid Medication Measurements, but usually, you only get one or the other. However, they are best if used together. To measure out the most accurate dose, pour the liquid medication into a dosing cup and then draw it up into an oral syringe. This not only acts as a way of double-checking your measurement but also helps prevent the syringe from possibly contaminating the bottle of medicine.

Careful with Calculations and Conversions:

Unfortunately, medication labels and measuring tools do not always match. The label may provide teaspoon-only or tablespoon-only instructions, but the accompanying tool lists milliliters, teaspoons or tablespoons. Please exercise caution when you are measuring with the correct unit listings. Additionally, parents need to ask their doctor to use their child’s weight to calculate the proper dose for common prescription and over-the-counter medications. Parents or caregivers should never use silverware like kitchen spoons, which can vary widely in size and shape, to dispense medicine. Giving too much, or too little, medicine to a child can have dire, and even deadly, consequences, so it is best to be as accurate as possible. When picking up medications from the pharmacy, it is best to ask for an oral syringe to ensure accurate dosing.

Preparation Goes a Long Way:

It would be great if all children sat still and were quiet while their parents carefully measured out their medicine. We all know that is simply not reality. If you have to administer medication, odds are likely your child is not feeling their best and is probably showing it either through tears, cries, flailing or some combination of them all. That is why it is best to plan ahead. Draw a line or apply a piece of tape to your oral syringe to mark the exact amount you need to give your child. This small step will feel monumental when it is 2 a.m. and you are trying to measure out 5 milliliters of medicine while trying to calm your crying infant.

For the Absolute Worst-Case Scenario:

If your child accidentally received too much medication and overdose is suspected, please call Poison Control Center at 800-222-1222 or visit to receive expert help and get accurate answers. It is free, confidential and available 24 hours a day, seven days of the week. However, if your child collapses, has a seizure or has trouble breathing or cannot be awakened, call 911 immediately.


“Liquid medication measurements can be very complicated, especially for new parents who are operating on minimal sleep. Using an oral syringe and double-checking your dosage may take more time. This will help ensure that the safety and health of your child with liquid medication measurements.”

Know your Medications: Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group wants you to know about your medications. Are you uncertain about your or your family’s medications and their combinations and management?

Heritage Consulting Pharmacist Dr. Angela Flores will be happy to work with you on your medications Contact our pharmacist Angel Flores

Not a Heritage member? Above all, you’ll love the way you feel with Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group. There is no cost, and you can keep your current health insurance, switch to a Heritage doctor. Call (800) 655-9999 to learn more.

Heritage Victor Valley Medical Group (HVVMG) offers its members award-winning Coordinated care with a speedy referral system. Heritage has 45 primary care physicians and a panel of two hundred medical specialists across Southern California’s High Desert, as well as the mountain communities. HVVMG has a locally based members service team and is dedicated to a spirit of excellence. HVVMG is part of the Heritage Provider Network