Over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, found in Calpol and Nurofen, should not be given to children when they are not needed.
The warning comes from Dr Aisling Garvey, a doctor at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin.
Dr Garvey believes that up to 30 per cent of parents use painkillers to put children to sleep or on long journeys and cautions that damage can be caused to toddlers and young children through this type of misuse of medicine.
“Children who are given over-the-counter analgestics early are more likely to self-medicate later in life,” she said.
Dr Garvey’s recent research at GP practices in Kerry and Cork showed a worrying trend in parent’s overuse of over-the-counter analgestics (OTCAs) with more than two-thirds of parents 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… Misuse was also an issue.”
Studies are also ongoing into the possible relationship between paracetemol use in infancy and the development of atopic conditions cu as asthma and eczema.
Dr Garvey concluded by suggesting that restricting OTCA availability in pharmacies, ensuing sales only follow a consultation with a pharmacist, could help result in improved use.