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Paracetamol prescribed to children too readily

19th May 2011

A new study has suggested that toddlers are being prescribed paracetamol too readily by overconfident doctors.

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Scientists found a quarter of young children are being given too much of the drug, which can cause liver damage.

The study focused on the medical records of 35,839 Scottish children aged 0-12 years from 2006 and was conducted by the Universities of Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

It found children aged 1-3 were prescribed excessive amounts of paracetamol by doctors and one in 20 were given an overdose.

However, there were also cases of under-doses too with 25% of children aged six to 12 given too small a dosage, putting them at greater risk of pain.

Study author Dr James McLay, from the department of medicine at the University of Aberdeen, said: “This is the first study to describe the patterns of paracetamol prescribing by primary care physicians in the community, and it is worrying to discover that just over half of the prescriptions failed to comply with basic BNFc recommendations.

“We know from other studies that around half of patients do not understand official dosage recommendations for medicines such as paracetamol, and not taking care over dosing instructions can leave parents in a state of confusion, or strengthen the public perception that paracetamol is harmless.”

Researchers acknowledged that judging paracetamol dosage instructions for small children was not straightforward with factors such as age and weight affecting the dosage a child should be prescribed.

They urged doctors to consult the British National Formulary for Children [BNFc], which recommends dosage amounts.

 

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