Don't use medicine to put toddlers to sleep, parents told
PARENTS have been warned of the dangers of giving small children over-the-counter medicine to sedate them during long journeys or get them to sleep at night.
A worrying number of parents are turning to easily available medicines and giving them to children in the wrong way or when they are not needed.
Some are ill-informed and using the wrong type of medicine in the wrong circumstances – but a sizeable minority are using them to sedate their children, according to Dr Aisling Garvey, a doctor at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin.
She warned of the damage that can be caused to toddlers and young children by the misuse of medicine and that up to 30pc of parents used painkillers to put children to sleep or on long journeys.
"Children who are given over-the-counter analgesics early are more likely to self-medicate in later life," she added.
Studies are ongoing into the potential relationship between paracetamol use in infancy, and the development of atopic conditions such as asthma and eczema.
In addition, the use of paracetamol around the time of children's immunisations has been shown to significantly reduce the effectiveness of some antibody response to certain vaccines.
Dr Garvey, a Senior House Officer in Pediatrics, recently conducted research at GP practices in Kerry and Cork, which identified worrying trends in parents' use of over-the-counter analgesics (OTCAs).
Her research has found that more than two-thirds of parents were incorrectly using the medications.
"Often the problem was incorrect preparation – for example, where parents were using oral medications when a child was vomiting, or suppositories when a child had diarrhoea," she said.
But she added: "Mis-use was also an issue with up to 30pc of parents using it to put a child to sleep or on long car journeys."
The most common medicines being used were Paracetamol and ibuprofen with Calpol (67pc) and Nurofen (29pc) the main types named.
These medicines are non-prescription and Dr Garvey noted that they were available without consultation with a pharmacist. A total of 183 parents participated in the study.
It was found that those with private health insurance were more likely to have appropriate patterns of use when compared to Medical Card/Doctor-Only Card holders.
Dr Garvey concluded that restricting OTCA availability to pharmacies, and ensuring sales only follow a consultation with a pharmacist, could potentially result in improved use.
In 2010, the National Poisons Information Centre of Ireland received 9,330 calls regarding human poisoning – half of which concerned children under the age of 10.
Paracetamol and ibuprofen were the most common drugs reported.