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Liquid medication administration

If the medicine comes in suspension form, shake well before using.

DO NOT use silverware spoons for giving medicine. They are not all the same size. A silverware teaspoon could be as small as a half teaspoon or as large as 2 teaspoons.

Measuring spoons used for cooking are accurate, but they spill easily.

Oral syringes have some advantages for giving liquid medicines.

  • They are accurate.
  • They are easy to use.
  • You can take a capped syringe containing a dose of medicine to your child's daycare or school.

There can be problems with oral syringes, however. The FDA has had reports of young children choking on syringe caps. To be safe, remove the cap before you use an oral syringe. Throw it away if you do not need it for future use. If you need it, keep it out of reach of infants and small children.

Dosing cups are also a handy way to give liquid medicines. However, dosing errors have occurred with them. Always check to make sure the units (teaspoon, tablespoon, mL, or cc) on the cup or syringe match the units of the dose you want to give.

Liquid medicines often do not taste good, but many flavors are now available and can be added to any liquid medicine. Ask your pharmacist.

Unit conversions

  • 1 mL = 1 cc
  • 2.5 mL = 1/2 teaspoon
  • 5 mL = 1 teaspoon
  • 15 mL = 1 tablespoon
  • 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon


Lowry JA, Jones BL, Sandritter TL, Kearns GL. Principles of drug therapy. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 60.

Ryu GS, Lee YJ. Analysis of liquid medication dose errors made by patients and caregivers using alternative measuring devices. J Manag Care Pharm. 2012;18(6):439-445. PMID: 22839684 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22839684.

Review Date 11/19/2015

Updated by: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.