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Is paracetamol safe for kids?

Paracetamol is a common, over-the-counter pain medicine used for mild to moderate pain in adults and children. Examples of use include treatment for headaches, sprains and toothache. It may also be used to control a high temperature in adults or children.

Paracetamol and children

This medication is often given to children in liquid form to treat symptoms such as pain or a high temperature. Paracetamol is available over-the-counter without prescription or with a prescription from your doctor. It may be sold as paracetamol or under brand names.

In 2011, updated guidelines for paracetamol use in children were published by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The agency says the changes were not made due to safety concerns, but to clarify and better target the correct dosage of paracetamol for children.

Paracetamol safety

The MHRA confirmed age-appropriate paracetamol is safe to give to babies and children over 2 months old. An example of use would be to treat a high temperature following infant vaccinations.

While liquid paracetamol is available for babies and younger children, older children may be able to swallow paracetamol tablets along with plenty of water. Soluble paracetamol tablets that dissolve in water are another option.

Dosing instructions included with the medication should be followed to the letter. If in doubt, talk to your GP, pharmacist or health visitor.

Guidelines for dosage are based on the child’s:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Strength of the paracetamol (usually in milligrams)

While paracetamol is safe for use in children, never give aspirin to children under 16 years old unless it has been specifically prescribed by your doctor, as it has been linked to a rare but dangerous illness called Reye's syndrome.

Parents and carers should follow the instructions on the packaging and always use the dosage spoons, measuring syringe or caps provided with the medication. Always keep medication stored in a safe place, out of the reach of children.

When to seek medical advice

Side effects caused by paracetamol are rare, but can include a rash. If your child’s pain or high temperature continues despite treatment with paracetamol, seek medical advice.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 17, 2016

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