Tuesday 20 February 2018

I defy anyone not to give in at 3am and crack open the Calpol when your child is awake and crying

Sinead Moriarty

Sinead Moriarty

The thorny issue of parents giving their children too much over-the-counter medicine has raised its head again. Up to one-third of Irish parents are now giving their young children over-the-counter analgesics (OTCA) like Calpol to get them to sleep at night.

The main danger with giving any OTCAs to children is the potential to be heavy- handed. Some parents use Calpol as a form of sleeping tablet for their children, which can cause those same children to develop asthma and eczema later on.

Obviously giving your child medicine for no reason is dangerous. Just because you want a good night's sleep doesn't mean you should dose your child up so that they will settle.

However, if you have ever been up all night with a teething or crying child, you will know how long those hours can feel. Pacing the floorboards with a howling child for hours on end is exhausting and upsetting.

So it's hard to blame all parents who are reaching for the Calpol to help their children sleep. Isn't a sleeping baby preferable to a crying, over-tired one?

Besides, if a healthy child can't sleep there is usually a reason why – teething being one of the main reasons.

Medicines like Nurofen and Calpol can help ease that discomfort and if used cautiously and sparingly should not cause problems.

Research conducted by Dr Aisling Garvey, Senior House Officer in Paediatrics at Our Lady's Children's Hospital in Crumlin, also discovered that almost 20pc of parents give their children OCTAs before vaccinations. This apparently can reduce the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

That's certainly not something I knew about and I think it's important to raise awareness of that potential danger. Thankfully, most parents only give their children OCTAs after the vaccinations as children often develop mild temperatures after their run-in with the needle.

Ms Garvey also says that children who are given OTCAs are more likely to self-medicate in later life. This is certainly worrying. No parent wants to give their children bad habits because they were a bit heavy-handed with the Nurofen when the child was two.

Up to 30pc of parents admitted to dosing their children to sedate them during long journeys. I have to admit I can see how this would be tempting. Having been vomited on several times by my children because of car sickness or exhaustion, I would have gladly given them a horse tranquilliser to get them to sleep.

Obviously every parent has to make a judgment call. It is up to us as adults not to over-medicate our children, and to use medicines like Calpol and Nurofen only when appropriate.

But I defy anyone not to be tempted and to give in at three in the morning when their child is still awake, crying and chewing on his fist. At that time of the night, it would take a huge amount of resilience not to crack open the Calpol and give the child a spoonful of it.

As long as it's not every night and it's just a spoonful, I can't imagine the same child, 20 years later, turning into a self-medicating junkie.

Irish Independent

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