From Soothing to Scary: The Truth About Calpol Addiction in Children
In May, BBC 1 aired a programme investigating why there has been an increase in the number of medications taken now compared to 40 years ago. In the first episode, Dr Chris van Tulleken investigated the use of Calpol to ‘treat’ children.
“Children are taking as much as three times more of the medicine compared to 40 years ago”
Dr Chris warned that many parents are overusing Calpol; it might be as a response to a “crying baby” or “misbehaving child”. In the documentary, parents admitted to keeping Calpol in every room “just in case” and using the medicine for teething, a slight temperature, colic, and even as part of their child’s bedtime routine as for the ‘calming’ effect it has on their child. Dr Chris revealed that children are taking as much as three times more of the medicine compared to 40 years ago.
“According to Leading paediatrician and professor of general paediatrics at University College London, Alastair Sutcliffe. Using Paracetamol too permissively could lead to an increased risk of developing asthma as well as kidney, heart and liver damage. “
Calpol contains the active ingredient paracetamol, a painkilling medicine used to relieve mild to moderate pain and fever – it is a medicine, and surely that in itself suggests that it should be taken in moderation. Leading paediatrician and professor of general paediatrics at University College London, Alastair Sutcliffe, says that parents are often using paracetamol “too permissively” to treat mild fevers. Sutcliffe claims that the result of this is an increased risk of developing asthma, as well as kidney, heart and liver damage.
“Experts recommend focusing on the comfort of your child; painkillers are only necessary when the child is “uncomfortable or distressed”
Paediatrician and spokesperson for the RCPCH Helen Sammons explains that a higher temperature that comes with a mild fever is not a bad thing, but a sign of the body’s natural response to fighting infections like coughs and colds. According to the NHS, the normal temperature in babies and children is about 36.4°C (but this can vary slightly from child to child), while 38°C or more is considered a high temperature*.
So how do we know when to give children Calpol? Experts recommend focusing on the comfort of your child; painkillers are only necessary when the child is “uncomfortable or distressed”.
Additionally, they advise keeping children hydrated and being aware of the signs of serious illness (you can find guidance on the NHS website). If you are concerned, you can call the NHS helpline 111, or contact your GP.
*How to check your child’s temperature
“To check your child’s temperature, the NHS recommends using a digital thermometer”
To check your child’s temperature, the NHS recommends using a digital thermometer. Ear thermometers may not be accurate if used wrong, and strip-type thermometers (that go on the forehead) are not considered accurate.
For children under five (including babies), take the reading from under their armpit, while gently holding their arm by their side. For older children, take the reading from the mouth, following the instructions on the thermometer.
Be aware that there are a few things that can affect the reading, such as being wrapped up/wearing a lot of layers; if so, let your child cool down for a few minutes before taking their temperature (without allowing them to get cold).