Are families sedating kids with antihistamines?

sedating antihistamines: two boys asleep in the back seat of a car

A fifth of NSW families are sedating their children during long car trips, according to media reports over the long weekend – but a leading pharmacist has queried this statistic.

Fairfax news outlets ran a story outlining the results of a survey commissioned by insurer GIO which found 18% of NSW drivers gave their children drugs such as OTC Phenergan to make long road trips more tolerable.

Other families used treats, handheld computer games and traditional driving games and singalongs to make long road trips with children pass more quickly.

“I’d query that statistic based on my own practice in community pharmacy,” Karalyn Huxhagen, 2010 PSA Pharmacist of the Year told the AJP.

She says that as one of Phenergan’s indications is for travel sickness, the wording of the question needed to be considered carefully, as parents may be giving the medication to combat carsickness, not to sedate their child.

“It’s an alarming statistic, but I don’t see as much of it now that parents are more aware of other products for travel sickness, even ginger products,” Huxhagen told the AJP. “We’re more asked what is an appropriate product for children who do have this problem.

“As a pharmacist, you don’t recommend sedating antihistamines for sedating children, and you don’t use them in children under the age of two.

“Really the only time I’d use them for children is for allergies – very severe allergic reactions, not for travel sickness because there are other, more appropriate travel sickness products available for children that aren’t sedating.

“There’s a body of evidence for the risk when using sedating antihistamines in small children, and if parents present with this request a pharmacist should ask what they want it for, and then the cascade of questions, and then recommend a more appropriate product.”

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