Parents warned about using infant paracetamol and ibuprofen

Should parents still be using these over-the-counter medicines?

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Reaching for infant paracetamol and ibuprofen has always been standard advice for treating children with a fever but parents are now being advised that a temperature is often the body’s way of fighting an infection and to bring it down with drugs could actually lengthen a child’s illness, reports the Telegraph.

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Many parents give paracetamaol or ibuprofen even if there’s only minimal fever, or none at all, noted the American Academy of Pediatrics in its guidance today. It’s also common practice for GPs to tell parents to give children alternate doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen believing the side effects risks are minimal, but the academy authors point out both medications have potential side effects and risks should be taken seriously.

In its official guidance, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), says the use of the UK’s drugs should be considered in children with fever who appear distressed or unwell. Although both drugs shouldn’t be routinely given to children with a fever it states that this approach may be considered if the child doesn’t respond to being given just one of them.

The British National Formulary, which GPs consult when prescribing or advising on medicine say children should receive no more than four doses of the right amount of paracetamol in a 24-hour period, and no more than four doses of ibuprofen a day.

The authors say that doctors should begin by helping parents understand fever isn’t known to harm a generally healthy child and it should be emphasised that fever isn’t an illness but a physiological mechanism that has beneficial effects in fighting infection.

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The study also found that as many as half of parents are giving their children the wrong dosage. A common error is giving children adult-sized doses while children who are small for their age can also receive too high a dose. But Dr Clare Gerada, the chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said, “In my experience of 20 years as a GP, parents are usually pretty careful.”

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