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Accurate Medication Dosing: Best Practices

September 11, 2018

As a parent or caregiver, it’s of the utmost importance to give the correct dosage to make sure the medication is as effective as possible and to prevent an overdose.

The use of multiple volumetric units (milliliters and/or teaspoons) and abbreviations (mL and tsp) can make measuring the correct dose confusing, thus increasing the risk of error. Harvard Health Publishing’s blog recently posted an article about dosing tips for parents and discussed a recent study by American Academy of Pediatrics that found that poorly designed labels and dosing tools also contribute to dosing errors. Below are a few best practices for accurate liquid medication dosing:

Exact fill lines are paramount

Refrain from your household silverware. Even though measuring spoons are labeled “teaspoons” and “tablespoons,” it’s safest to use a labeled syringe, dosage cup, or dosage spoon with exact fill lines.

Know your units and check your math

Is it milliliters, teaspoons, tablespoons, or ounces? While The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP) recommends standardizing the dosing measurements on prescription container labels for liquid medications to mL (milliliters), doctors use all of these so it’s important to know your conversions:

1 cubic centimeter (cc) = 1 mL
1 teaspoon (tsp) = 5 mL
1 tablespoon (tbsp) = 15 mL
1 ounce (oz) = 30 mL

And be aware of your decimal points. Is the dose 5 mL or .5 mL? The NCPDP recommends the use of leading zeros before a decimal for amounts less than one, (0.5 is much easier to read than .5) but not all medications are labeled that way.

Double check your dosage

When you pick up your medicine, double check the packaging and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask your pharmacist for a syringe and/or directions on how to use one.

NCPDP Recommendations

Below are the NCPDP recommendations for standardizing the dosing designations on prescription container labels for oral liquid medications:

1. mL (milliliter) should be the standard unit of measure used for oral liquid medications.
2. Dose amounts should always use leading zeros before the decimal for amounts less than one and should not use trailing zeros after a decimal for whole numbers.
3. Dosing devices with numeric graduations and units that correspond to the container labeling should be made easily and universally available, such as including a device each time oral liquid prescription medications are dispensed.

Our Custom Solutions

We custom print dosage cups, dosage spoons, and oral syringes with a logo, instructions, and exact calibration lines. Because molded-embossed lines can be difficult to read, we print easy-to-read lines on the outside of the dosing device. Be sure to learn more about our innovative capabilities through our Comar IDworks®.

As a leading manufacturer of safe and accurate oral dosing devices, we encourage our customers to keep up with the mL only initiative per the NCPDP white paper and to learn more about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) PROTECT Initiative, a project that advocates for consistent, effective labeling on medications to help prevent medication overdoses in children.

Learn more:

NCPDP White Paper

PROTECT Initiative: Advancing Children’s Medication Safety

4 Ways to Avoid Mistakes with Liquid Medicines

Pictograms, Units and Dosing Tools, and Parent Medication Errors: A Randomized Study

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