Side effects, dosage a major concern for parents

When it comes to giving kids medicines, the majority of parents worry most about their children experiencing side effects, according to a new survey

The new survey of more than 1,000 adult Australians, conducted by YouGov Galaxy last month, has found 69% of parents worry most about their child experiencing side effects.

It also found parents worry about correct dosage (62%), remembering how often to give the medicine (60%) and if they’re administering medicines correctly (56%).

This Be Medicinewise Week (20-26 August), NPS MedicineWise is urging all families to ensure they have the correct information about the safe use of medicines before giving medicine to a baby or child.

“Giving a child medicine can be daunting for parents and carers, because it’s so important the medicine is administered correctly, and at the right dose, to be effective and to avoid accidental harm,” says Dr Jill Thistlethwaite, NPS Medicinewise Medical Adviser.

“While most medicines are well tolerated by children, there may be side effects such as diarrhoea with some antibiotics,” she says.

Whether the dose of an over-the-counter medicine should be determined by a child’s age or weight is one issue confusing many parents.

Half of the parents surveyed with children aged four or younger have concerns about whether they need to weigh a child before administering a medicine.

According to Dr Norman Swan, there are some key dosing rules that parents can be reminded of:

  • Children are not ‘little adults’. They can respond differently to medication and be more sensitive, particularly to overdose.
  • Don’t give children a child any more paracetamol than it says on the pack for their age and weight.
  • Don’t give paracetamol for more than 48 hours continuously.
  • If a child is very overweight or underweight, confirm dose with GP or pharmacist.
  • Check you’re not doubling up on dose if taking cough & cold medication.
  • Don’t give children aspirin; it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome.

Dr Swan says, “Most cases of overdose are the accumulative result of several days of paracetamol where the recommended dose has been exceeded. It’s important to get the right dose and timing from the get go.”

Pharmacists can refer to the AMH Childrens Dosing Companion, available online, and find more information about children and medicines at

Last year, NPS MedicineWise pharmacists took more than 600 questions about medicines for children and teenagers (0-19 years) through its Medicines Line, with nearly 400 of those relating to children aged 0-10.

Often the calls were about giving antibiotics to children and about administering medicines for coughs, colds, earaches and sore throats.

NPS MedicineWise offers the following advice for parents and carers:

  • Always read the label and packaging and, if in doubt, ask: Children’s medicines come in different forms and strengths for different ages and body weights.
  • Dose according to age and weight: Over-the-counter children’s medicine labels often contain age and average weight dosage recommendations. Read these tables carefully.
  • Measure accurately: Accurate measurements for liquid medicines matter.
  • Write it down: Keep a record of the medicines you give your child to avoid exceeding the maximum daily dose and reduce the risk of double dosing. 

For more information, parents and carers can call the Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424) Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm AEST (excluding NSW public holidays).

To report a problem with medicines or vaccines, call the Adverse Medicine Events Line on 1300 134 237.

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