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Is it OK to give baby her medicine with a tableware teaspoon?
Q: My 7-month-old baby had her first ear infection and was prescoted antibiotics. When I was giving her the medicine with an ordinary teaspoon, my friend said that her doctor told her that you shouldn’t use those spoons for medicine. What’s the right way to give babies medicine?
Morgan Campbell
A: Morgan, your friend and her doctor are right that it’s best not to use ordinary tableware teaspoons to give babies medicine. Tableware teaspoons come in a wide range of sizes. Some are much smaller than a true teaspoon and some are much larger. When you give your child any medicine, you need to give exactly the prescoted dose to properly treat the illness and avoid side effects or overdoses. For example, with your daughter’s antibiotic, giving too little medicine at each dose may not cure her ear infection while giving too much may give her more side effects like diarrhea, and may use up the medicine too early so there’s not enough for her full course, which could also fail to cure her ear infection.

If you child’s liquid medicine comes with a measuring device (e.g., dropper, syringe, spoon or cup), use it. If not, there are a variety of reasonably priced measuring devices you can buy at your local pharmacy. These include, for babies who can’t yet drink from a spoon or cup:

A dropper: Place the dropper tip in the medicine, squeeze the rubber bulb and release it to draw up the medicine to the right amount according to the marking on the side of the dropper. Give your child the medicine quickly, before it drips out. Point the dropper in your child’s mouth toward the back inside of the cheek and squirt out the medicine gently.

A syringe: Fill up the syringe to the right amount by either of the following methods: 1) Remove the tiny cap on the tip of the syringe, place the syringe tip in the medicine and draw up on the plunger to bring the medicine to the right level; or 2) Leave the cap on the syringe, remove the plunger completely, pour the medicine into the syringe to the right level, replace the plunger and then remove the cap. Point the dropper in your child’s mouth toward the back inside of the cheek and squirt out the medicine gently. Since young children have choked on syringe caps, be sure to remove the cap before squirting the medicine into your child’s mouth, and either throw away the cap or place it out of your child’s reach.

For children who can drink from a spoon or cup you can use:

A cylindrical dosing spoon: This looks like a laboratory test tube with a small spoon at the top. Pour the medicine into the cylinder to the right level, and then have your child sip the medicine from the spoon.

A dosage cup: This is often placed over the cap of over-the-counter liquid medicines. Pour the medicine into the cup to the right level and have your child sip the medicine from the cup.

Even when you use a special measuring device, it can be difficult to draw up or pour in just the right amount of medicine. The numbers and markings on the side of measuring devices are usually small, so read them carefully (wear your glasses if necessary). When drawing up or pouring in the medicine, bring the measuring device up to your eye level to make sure the medicine is at the right level.

If you have questions about giving your child medicine, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist.