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04 Jul 2016

Many parents do not know safe doses of over-the-counter paracetamol products for their children, underlining concerns that large numbers of youngsters are being exposed to potential drug overdoses and other harmful outcomes.

University of Wollongong researchers have found that one in four parents do not know the recommended daily dose for paracetamol, and one in three are unaware that liver toxicity could result from an overdose of the painkiller.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Judy Mullan said the lack of knowledge among parents regarding the appropriate uses of paracetamol could leave children susceptible to potential adverse drug events.

NPS MedicineWise Medical Advisor Dr Andrew Boyden said that it is important, especially for parents, to understand that all medicines come with risks as well as benefits.

“Small mistakes can cause big problems in little bodies, so parents and carers need to know how to give medicines to children safely,” Dr Boyden said.

The study, involving 174 people, found that 26.4 per cent did not know the recommended maximum daily dose for children’s paracetamol, 37.4 per cent did not know that an overdose could cause liver toxicity, and 46 per cent were unsure how many days in a row the recommended dose could be given safely.

Participants in the study were mostly female (93 per cent), well educated (86 per cent), with a mean age of 36 years.

A/Professor Mullan said the findings showed that much more needed to be done to educate parents about the safe use of paracetamol in children.

“Some strategies to address knowledge gaps could include improving health professional/consumer communication, improving product packaging labelling, and improving media coverage about the potential adverse effects associated with incorrect dosage,” she suggested.

Dr Boyden said that knowing how to accurately measure and administer medicines to children would help to avoid accidental overdosing or underdosing.

“Some ways to be medicinewise when children are involved include reading the medicine label and packaging, knowing the child’s weight, measuring liquid medicines accurately, keeping track of medicines given, and asking questions if you’re unsure about anything,” Dr Boyden said.

The paper was presented at the National Medicines Symposium. Read more at

Kirsty Waterford

Published: 04 Jul 2016