Two-thirds of parents using drugs incorrectly when treating their children

Patients with private health insurance more likely to have appropriate patterns of use

Researchers from University College Cork and Cork University Hospital found that  only a quarter of parents or guardians regularly consulted a pharmacist prior to giving analgesics to children. Photograph: Alan Betson

Researchers from University College Cork and Cork University Hospital found that only a quarter of parents or guardians regularly consulted a pharmacist prior to giving analgesics to children. Photograph: Alan Betson

Wed, May 8, 2013, 06:00

Two-thirds of parents are using common analgesic drugs such as paracetamol and ibuprofen incorrectly when treating their children, a new study has found.

Researchers from University College Cork and Cork University Hospital say parents need to be given more information on the use of such medication.

The study in the latest edition of the Irish Medical Journal also found that despite the fact that over 90 per cent of analgesics are purchased over-the-counter from pharmacies, only a quarter of parents/guardians regularly consulted a pharmacist prior to giving the drug to a child.

In addition, 14 per cent do not routinely consult the label of the product prior to administration.

Over-the-counter analgesics include those sold under trade names such as Calpol, Dozol and Paralink; they account for over a fifth of Irish pharmacy sales.

Researchers distributed questionnaires to 183 parents/guardians of children who attended three GP surgeries in the South from June to September 2010. Some 66 per cent were using analgesics when not required or using an inappropriate analgesic for a child’s symptom.

Symptom control
Inappropriate use was defined as use of a product in a way that was unlikely to optimise symptom control (for example, giving oral medicines to a child who is vomiting or using suppositories if a child has diarrhoea).

Other examples of inappropriate use included the use of painkillers when they could have no clinical benefit, such as if a child was misbehaving, in an effort to induce sleep or to calm a child on long car journeys.

The research also revealed that patients with private health insurance were more likely to have appropriate patterns of use (40 per cent) compared to medical card/doctor-only card holders (22.5 per cent).