PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — When your children are sick, are you sure you’re giving them the right dose of medicine?

According to a recent study in the Journal Pediatrics, parents are making dosing errors, especially if they use a cup.

“When you use the cup, there’s almost always a drop or five or six drops left in the cup at the end, and it’s really difficult to know how much your child has received,” says Dr. Benjamin Miller, a pediatrician at Children’s Hospital.

More than 2,000 caregivers of children younger than 8 were given labels and dosing tools, and were asked to measure out nine different doses. Nearly 85 percent of them made one or more mistakes.

The study’s authors recommend using a syringe.

“A syringe measurement is a lot easier to get exactly the right amount, and make sure your child is getting the entire amount,” Dr. Miller said.

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But the tool you use to give the medicine is just one factor.

Wrong doses can be the result of confusing abbreviations, weight charts in kilograms instead of pounds and a lack of standardization. You might see different measurement units, such as milliliters, teaspoons and tablespoons.

For instance, do you know for sure that you’ve grabbed a teaspoon or a tablespoon?

“These medications usually have a chart on the back that give ranges, and I would always err on the lower dose than the higher dose if there’s any question,” said Dr. Miller. “In my experience, it’s probably a little more common for parents to underdose their kids.”

What seems to drive parents is familiarity — whether it’s the cup or the spoons. Getting familiar with milliliters and a syringe could take some time.

One way to be sure you’re dosing the medication correctly is to have your doctor or pharmacist show you how much to measure and how often to give the medicine. It will make things easier in the middle of the stress of a sick child.

Dr. Maria Simbra