Understandably parents want the best for their child, and, when they are presenting symptoms of illness, want to medicate them appropriately.
However not all medications are suitable or safe for children. In fact, it is thought that many childhood illnesses get better without the need for any kind of medication. By avoiding the use of medications children are building up their immune system enabling them to resist similar illnesses when they are confronted with them in the future.
If you do decide to medicate your child here are some general guidelines to follow:
Aspirin has been linked to Reye Syndrome in children. It has been found that this serious syndrome developed in some children who were given aspirin when they had chicken-pox or the flu (1). Consequently, unless specifically described by a doctor, don’t give aspirin to children under the age of 16.
It is thought that paracetamol is a safe and effective medication for children aged over two months (2). However it is important that you administer the correct dose, so always read the label carefully before giving to your child.
Ibuprofen is a safe treatment to give a child aged three months or over, unless the child has asthma. If the child has asthma it is advised that parents opt for a different medication, although a study by McIntyre and Hull found that no child, with or without asthma, developed symptoms of asthma or wheezing. The authors argue that ibuprofen is at least as safe as paracetamol and not likely to exacerbate asthma (3).
The British National Formulary advises that children should receive no more than four doses of the appropriate quantity of ibuprofen per day (4).
COUGH AND COLD MEDICINES
It is advised that over-the-counter cough and cold medications aren’t suitable for a child younger than two because of potentially dangerous side-effects (5).
Antibiotics treat illnesses that are caused by bacteria. It is unlikely that a child will have an illness caused by a bacteria, therefore it is unlikely that a child will need antibiotics.
However, should a GP prescribe your child with antibiotics be sure to ask for clarity around why this is necessary and whether there are any negative side-effects. It may be that there are some alternatives that may be just as effective and safer for a young child.
If you do decide to that antibiotics are needed it is important that you give your child the entire course even if they seem better after a few days. This is because if the full dose is not given, some of the bacteria may still be present and therefore would be more likely to return.
Whatever medication you decide to give your child be sure to read the packaging carefully and follow the instructions regarding how much and how often to administer them. Make a note of the time and quantity you are giving, and never provide the medicine more frequently than advised. Keep all medications in a safe place, out of reach of any children.
If you are in any doubt about what medication to administer to sure to consult with your GP or a pharmacist remembering to tell them the age of your child.