A Dangerous Spoonful

By: Allison Johnson

Roxanne Parrott’s, “Talking About Health: Why Communication Matters”, gives rise to many questions and concepts I personally would have never thought to asked or entertain in my leisure. During my readings of chapter six, “Who Profits from My Health”, there were many great points made. One statement that resonated with me was the opening line to the subparagraph titled, “Who Benefits from our Health Illiteracy?”, “Teach your children well” (Parrott 116).

Yesterday morning, as I rushed through my morning routine, I caught the end of what was more of a side note than a featured news story. Flipping channels to see if anyone else was reporting on it, I found similar brief mentions of a new study published just that morning on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC. They all had headlines that bannered the television with all caps: OVERDOSING. At first, I imagined it was a piece on the tragic and chronic rise of Heroin overdoses.

However, the study that came out was in regards to a randomized experiment where researches studied over 2000 (2110 to be exact) parents of children ages eight or younger (Parents). The study was meant to gage the range in which parent (mis)calculate the dosage for liquid medications and it did just that. The results, “a total of 84.4% of parents made ≥ (at least, if not more than) 1 dosing error” (Yin). The main culprit was measuring instruments with low accuracy i.e. cup caps (Fig A. shows different measuring tools). The main consensus was that the most accurate measuring device for liquid mediation was a syringe, preferably in milliliters.


This publication is a perfect example of health illiteracy, focusing on the inability to follow instructions. Narrowing down what medication to give yourself let alone your child can be a task in and of itself, but that is only one small facet if you cannot administer the appropriate amount. Below is a chart for Motrin (Ibuprofen) dosages (fig. B). It is easy to see the multiple factors parent must take into consideration before giving medication to their child. Both weight and dosage must add up, making it critical to have the appropriate measuring tools and knowledge of how different measuring units convert to one another. It was both concerning and encouraging to see the news reports, concerning because so many parents made calculation mistakes and encouraging to see the rapid action media took to get the message out that giving an erroneous amount of medication can in fact be quite harmful.




  1. Parrott, Roxanne. Talking About Health: Why Communication Matters. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. 2009
  2. “Parents Who Administer Liquid Meds Often Make Dosing Errors, Study Say”. American Academy of Pediatrics, https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/Parents-Who-Administer-Liquid-Meds-Often-Make-Dosing-Errors-Study-Says.aspx?nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token. Accessed 13 Sept. 2016.
  3. Yin, H. Shonna, etc. “Liquid Medication Errors and Dosing Tools: A Randomized Experiment.” Pediatrics. September 2016 ed. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/09/08/peds.2016-0357. Accessed 12 Sept. 2016.

Figure A:

Zehr, Vernon. Safety Tips When Measuring Doses 2. http://www.consumermedsafety.org/medication-safety-articles/itemlist/category/42-measuring-the-dose-of-liquid-medicines. Accessed 13 Sept. 2016.

Figure B:

Ibuprofen (Motrin/Advil) Dosing Chart, http://www.pediatricassociatesnyc.com/dosing-chart.html. Accessed 13 Sept. 2016.




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