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ISMP Medication Safety Alert

Teaspoon v. tablespoon: what's the difference?

Do you know the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon? You might, but a lot of people don't, even though it seems so basic. After all, teaspoons and tablespoons are common measures used in cooking. It takes three teaspoons to make a tablespoon, but a mother gave her 3-year-old boy a tablespoon of Phenergan® (promethazine) expectorant because she thought that a tablespoon was equal to two teaspoons. That amount was not an overdose, fortunately, but this situation illustrates the problem with using household measuring spoons for medications. Not only are there misunderstandings with how many teaspoons make a tablespoon, but household measuring spoons are not very accurate. That's okay when you're baking a cake, but sometimes that inaccuracy is a problem when measuring a medication. We've written before about how oral syringes should be used with medications because they are more accurate than dose cups or spoons. Your pharmacy can give you oral syringes and demonstrate how to use them.

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