Q&A: Prescription Label Confusion

What's with a doctor writing a prescription in teaspoons, but the pharmacist printing the dosage in milliliters?

Q. Sometimes my doctor writes a prescription for my child in teaspoons, but the pharmacist prints the dosage in milliliters. Why do they make this so confusing?

A. Pediatricians might write the dose in either teaspoons, milliliters (mls), or cubic centimeters (ccs), but pharmacists often prefer to use milliliters on the prescription label so that the parent will give the correct dose to the child, says Winnie A. Landis, president of the American Pharmacists Association. When directions are given in teaspoons there is always concern that the parent may use a household teaspoon to measure or approximate the dose, she says. One teaspoon is equal to 5 mls. To make sure you give your child the correct amount of medicine, always review the dose, dosing units, and appropriate time to give the medication. If you have any questions, double-check with the pharmacist. Better yet: Ask her to mark the proper amount with a marker on a children's medicine syringe. Even if your pharmacy doesn't routinely give one of those syringes for free, you should ask for one, suggests Landis.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the February 2008 issue of Parents magazine.

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