Calpol guidelines changed over dosing worries
PARENTS have been told to reduce the amount of Calpol they give young children, amid fears that toddlers could be taking too much of the painkiller.
By the time babies are six months old, 80 per cent them will have been given doses of liquid paracetamol, which is sold under brand names including Calpol and Disprol.
Many parents dose their children up at the slightest sign of a snivel.
Until recently packaging on bottles of the children's strength solutions advised that children aged from 12 months to six years could be given the same dose. That was two 5ml spoons, up to four times every 24 hours.
However, the British Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now revised its recommendations, saying that with the "very wide age bands ...younger children may have received a dose of paracetamol that was higher than necessary".
It has consequently split dosing into tighter age bands, reflecting the large differences in weight and bodily development between a one-year-old baby and a six-year-old child.
Now, it says only those aged four or over should be given the maximum dose of two teaspoons a time.
Those aged two to four should be given only 7.5ml (a full teaspoon and a half teaspoon), up to four times a day, according to the MHRA.
An MHRA spokesman emphasised: "The change is to ensure children get the optimal dose of paracetamol suitable for their age. It is not because of safety concerns."
She said the MHRA had only ever received 26 reports of paracetamol overdose in children.
However, paediatricians have recently begun to raise concerns over the potential long-term health impacts of regularly dosing up children on paracetamol.
A year ago scientists at the University of Otago in Nez Zealand published study findings which suggested regular paracetamol use could prompt asthma and increase the chance of allergy, although they cautioned the research did not prove cause and effect.
In February the American Association of Pediatrics warned that parents were relying too heavily on paracetamol and ibuprofen to bring down their children's temperatures, when a fever was often "a physiological mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection".
And in May a study of Scottish children found a quarter of paracetamol prescriptions for one to three-year-olds were for "excessive" dosages, that academics warned could put them at risk of liver damage.
The new recommendations also change advice for very young children, which mean those aged between six months and a year can actually be given more than before.
Previously, it was advised that babies aged three to 12 months should be given a maximum dose of 2.5ml a time, up to four times a day.
Now that has been revised as the maximum dose for three to six-month-olds. Those aged six to 24 months can be given a 5ml spoon, four times daily. Consequently, this means 12 to 24-month-olds can only be given half the previous maximum dose.
Neal Patel, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the new guidelines, which have already been incorporated on product packaging, "should make it clearer for parents".
He said: "What’s important is matching doses with age and weight more accurately."
The updated guidance follows an MHRA warning in 2009 that more than 60 cough and cold remedies should not be given to under sixes, due to evidence they could be harmful and did not work.