Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used ‘over-the-counter’ medicines, especially for the minor illnesses suffered by many children. But often it is not used in the correct dosage, which may make it less effective or dangerous.
The main uses of paracetamol are for relief of pain and for reducing a fever. While having a raised temperature isn't always a bad thing, as it can help the body's immunity, it can make the affected person feel very uncomfortable. This is often the case with children and can lead to very disturbed nights for parents, brothers and sisters.
The correct dose of paracetamol for a child does not depend on its age, but its weight. The usual dose is 15 mg per kilogram of weight. In other words if a baby weighs 10 kg it should have 150 mg. This dose can be taken once every 4 hours, up to 4 times per day if needed. You should not exceed the recommended dose except on the advice of your doctor. No child should take a total of more than 90 mg per kilogram in a day.
Most children are given paracetamol in syrup form and it is vital to check the strength of the brand used, because they vary. Problems can also arise because of confusion between the way things are measured. Remember that ‘mg’ is a measure of weight and ‘mL’ is a measure of fluid volume. So if the strength of a bottle of paracetamol syrup is 100 mg/mL then a 10 kg baby needs 1.5 mL.
Used properly, paracetamol is a useful medicine for making children more comfortable when they have minor illnesses and pain. Understanding and checking the correct doses is vitally important if parents are to use it safely and effectively.
Last Reviewed: 09 November 2009