Huge gaps in understanding paracetamol harm: study

children health: little girl refuses medicine

A study of adults who had recently purchased children’s paracetamol has indicated that many people don’t know basic information about the commonly used medicine.

Presented at last week’s National Medicines Symposium in Canberra, the study of 174 people by researchers at the University of Wollongong found that around a quarter of the respondents (26.4%) did not know the recommended maximum daily dose for the medicine.

Over a third of people (37.4%) did not know that liver toxicity could result from overdose of children’s paracetamol, and almost half (46%) did not know how many days in a row the recommended dose could be safely given.

Participants were mostly female (93%), well educated (86.2%) with a mean age of 36 years.

“Gaps in adults’ knowledge about safe administration of over-the-counter children’s paracetamol products leave children susceptible to potential adverse drug events,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Judy Mullan.

“Some strategies to address these 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.”

NPS MedicineWise medical adviser Dr Andrew Boyden says it is important for people—particularly 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,” says Dr Boyden.

“Knowing how to accurately measure and administer medicines to children will 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 (by learning how to use the dosing device and checking the dose is right), keeping track of the medicines given, and asking questions if you’re ever unsure about anything.”


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