Andrea Mara

Official website

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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