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September 23, 2004 12:52 AM

Broken: Tussin cough syrup container

tussinEllen Johnson writes from Buffalo, NY:

About a month ago I had this awful cough. I went to my local drug store to buy some expectorant. I came home and took what I thought to be a normal dose, by filling the whole cap.

On further inspection, however, I found that the units on the cap (tablespoons) were different from the units on the label (teaspoons). Thankfully there was no particularly dangerous ingredients, since I took nearly a double dose.


Maybe it's a (dangerous) marketing strat....Most users would use up the product 2x as fast, and perhaps it would be more effective (tho not recommended by doctors) since you took a double dose.

Posted by: Mr. Evil at September 23, 2004 01:42 AM

You see the same thing in many laundry detergents, where they include a scoop to measure out the stuff. If you read the almost invisible gradations on the scoop, you see that half a scoop does a normal laundry load. But who reads the scoop?

Posted by: Wordmama at September 23, 2004 11:23 AM

Reminds me of Newman's Own (and other?) salad dressing bottles, with the wide open top. With a liquidy dressing like oil & vinegar, you can easily empty half the bottle during the first use. After that, you learn to pour in moderation.

Posted by: Bob Sifniades at September 23, 2004 05:24 PM

This could be worse than it sounds. The conversion for tsp-tbl is 4tsp=1tbl (Australia) and I think 3tsp=1tbl (US).

For a child, trebling or quadrupling the dose could be a much bigger problem.

Posted by: Donna Maurer at September 23, 2004 09:00 PM

My wife, in a sleep-deprived state, did mix up the teaspoon/tablespoon dosage when administering acetaminophen to our few-month-old child. Fortunately, the infant threw up shortly afterwards, by which time she had realized the mistake.

Next morning, we did look carefully at the label and found it all-to-easy to make this mistake, what with tablespoon sometimes abbreviated "Tsp" (and other times "tbsp"), as opposed to teaspoon, "tsp".

As both of us have laboratory experience, we ditched the English-units cup and bought one reading only in ml.

Then we discovered that the dose in ml is not often clear on the label, and that the strength of the solution (mg/ml) is DIFFERENT between infant and child versions of the drug; in fact, the infant formulation is MORE CONCENTRATED, I suppose on the idea that it's difficult to get your infant to swallow medication.


The United States should complete its 30-year (thus far) transition to the metric system, especially for medication. No one seems to have trouble understanding what a 750 ml bottle of wine looks like, nor how big a 2.2 liter engine is, two of the rare instances where the US have switched.

Everyone who has been educated as a scientist or engineer in the States already knows the metric system anyway, though then we hit industry, where we have to deal with units like "mgd" (million gallons per day), or worse, hybrid units such as "grams per gallon".


Posted by: Oceaneer at September 29, 2004 06:12 PM

Tussin is robot oil in disguise anyhow. Yeah it makes you feel better but swear that the factory is adding the 'fresh robot oil' taste.

Posted by: Craig at September 30, 2004 06:30 PM

Geee Ellen,

You might consider seeing a doctor right away - not for the cough thing but it would seem you might be suffering of overabundance of MALE hormones somehow by your pattern of - "If all else fails, read the directions."

Posted by: imnotright at May 3, 2005 04:11 PM

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