Using the iced tea spoon to dole out meds may not be the best idea

A teaspoon is a teaspoon is a teaspoon … right? Not exactly, as researchers tested several household spoons used to give medicine, finding wide variations in capacity.

The study took place in Attica, Greece, where 25 women allowed their teaspoons (71 total) and tablespoons (49 total) to be measured. A standard teaspoon measure is about 5 milliliters, and a tablespoon is about 14.9 milliliters.

The teaspoons the researchers collected had capacities ranging from 2.5 ml to 7.3 ml. The volume of the various tablespoons ranged from 6.7 ml to 13.4 ml. Some homes had a variety of spoons with different volumes.

But a calibrated spoon doesn’t guarantee accurate measurement. Five women in the study were asked to pour liquid into a teaspoon, calibrated at 5 ml, until it was full. Even then there were slight variations in volume.

“A parent using one of the biggest domestic teaspoons would be giving their child 192% more medicine than a parent using the smallest teaspoon, and the difference was 100% for the tablespoons,” said lead author Dr. Matthew Falagas, director of the Alfa Institute of Biomedical Sciences in Athens, Greece, in a news release. “This increases the chance of a child receiving an overdose or indeed too little medication.”

The study authors make the argument that with so many variables, it may be best to dispense medication via calibrated oral syringes, especially for children.

The study was published in the August issue of the International Journal of Clinical Practice.