Liquid measuring tools

Written by nina dubois
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Liquid measuring tools
Only use liquid measuring tools on level surfaces to avoid measurement inacuracy. (measuring cup image by Antonio Oquias from

Historically, ensuring accuracy in liquid measurement has not been a simple task. According to food historian Nicolas Mink, measuring cups and spoons did not became standardised until 1896 when Fannie Farmer published her groundbreaking cookbook. Today, however, there are a variety of liquid measuring options. To maximise measuring accuracy, it is important to use the measuring tool necessary for each situation.

Liquid Measuring Cups

The most basic liquid measuring tool is the liquid measuring cup. Though liquid measuring cups are similar in appearance to measuring cups used for dry goods, there are important differences between the two. Liquid measuring cups are typically made of clear plastic or glass and include spouts for pouring. They also feature ounce and millilitre measurements as well as cup increments with multiple gradation lines along the side. Because liquids have the tendency to form a meniscus or slight curve along a surface, it is important to view liquid measuring cups from the side at eye level rather than from above to maximise accuracy.

Medicine Cups

Medicine cups are similar to liquid measuring cups, but are used for measuring liquid medicines rather than food items. These cups are typically packaged with a particular medicine and are not to be separated and used with different medicines, as this can affect measurement accuracy. If a medicine comes without a medicine cup, ask the pharmacist for help in finding the proper measuring tool. Medicine cups are ideal for adults or children who can drink from a cup without spilling.

Dosing Spoons

Dosing spoons are best for younger children who may be able to drink from a cup, but are more likely to spill. To use a dosing spoon, fill the spoon while holding it upright at eye-level. Dosing spoons include measurement lines that are typically divided into tablespoon increments.

While a kitchen spoon may seem like a reasonable alternative to a dosing spoon, it should not be used to measure medicine. A study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that using a kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicine results in dosing errors that can alter the effectiveness of a given medication and even lead to paediatric poisoning.

Droppers and Syringes

Medicine droppers or syringes are liquid measuring tools best suited for children who are unable to drink from a cup. When filling a syringe or dropper, never fill the instrument completely. Instead, use the numbered lines on the side, which serve as guides for measurement accuracy. Medicine must be given slowly, allowing the child to swallow. Squirt the medicine gently between the child's tongue and inner cheek to ease swallowing. Avoid putting the medicine in the back of the child's throat, which can cause choking.

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