Parents are medicating children to sleep?

Today’s Independent reports on a survey carried out by Dr. Aisling Garvey of Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, which shows that about 30% of parents are medicating their children to get them to sleep, using over the counter paracetamol and ibuprofen – or as we know them, Calpol and Nurofen.

I wonder if some of this is down to interpretation though? For a start, it’s a small survey of just 183 parents. 30% use Calpol and Nurofen to sedate their children. Does this really mean that almost of a third of parents in this country are routinely spooning medicine into their healthy children to put them to sleep at night? Or does it also cover the scenario where a child wakes crying at 3am, and after cuddling, walking, singing, soothing and rocking, if the baby is still crying, the parents decide that it might be teething, and administer the pain-relieving medicine? I’m guessing there’s a lot of the latter in there. Apart from anything else, most parents know that there is no sedative effect from Calpol or Nurofen – these medicines can only aid sleep by soothing pain, in which case, the usage is valid.

Office mum post: photo of medicine

Discussions about this on radio stations generate the usual entrenched views from all sides. One text to Newstalk came from a parent who said that all it takes is a routine, and kids sleep through the night. If only it were so simple. Routine is great, but not all children respond – there’s no magic solution. I have two who slept through from six or seven months, and one who at two-and-a-half has only just started to do so. I’ve never given Calpol as a sedative, but I have given it for suspected teething in the middle of the night. I’m guessing this is the case for most parents, and we probably don’t need to panic about Calpol abuse.

Dr. Garvey is suggesting that the sale of the above over-the-counter medicines be restricted – consumers would have to speak to a pharmacist before purchasing. If there’s really a problem with over-use, this would probably help to a some degree. It won’t stop anyone who wants to buy the medicine from doing so, but it would raise awareness about potential harm. Having said that,  I can already hear my own defensive tone trying to explain why I need a bottle of Calpol for a teething toddler… Valid control or nanny state? What do you think?


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5 thoughts on “Parents are medicating children to sleep?”

  1. That’s funny, if I give my little boy calpol he gets quite hyper, I can only give it to him if he’s really tired and pretty much ready to sleep, otherwise he’ll wind himself up, to singing in bed for an hour, instead of going to sleep!
    …I thought we had enough restrictions on over the counter meds already, with ‘Teedex’, a teething medicine, only being available for children six years and over!

    1. I’ve heard of the hyper reaction before and am always worried that will be the outcome here too – not what you need in the middle of the night either! I guess it’s the sugar – that lovely taste and pink colour come at a cost 😉

  2. I think you hit the nail on the head considering the size of the study. Ridiculous coming to such a conclusion based on such a small number of participants. Paracetamol and ibuprofen are not sedatives. They are pain relief and anti-inflammatory so I gather if baby/child sleeps after receiving a dose then they were in pain. There are other drugs on the market that have sedative effects due to the anti-histamine content, Teethex for example. I know our local chemist won’t give it out without a proper questioning.

    Too much time on her hands I say.

    1. Yes that’s it I think – the medicines relieve pain and then the kids are better able to sleep so parents come to the incorrect conclusion that the medicines are directly leading to sleep.

  3. It is quite a small study size but there are quite a few parents who still think that calpol has sedative properties. I don’t know about restrictions on sale but it would be no harm to have pharmacists have a little discussion with parents when selling these products, as they do it seems with Dozol and Teethex. Another big worry would be the over use of these medicines when a parent suspects there might be some pain… sometimes reaching for the bottle before checking out some other possible reasons for a crying child. Overall is it wonderful that we have these medicines available in our households but parents should be better educated on what they should be used for AND ALSO the very serious side effects than can result from over use or accidental overdose!
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