Paracetamol for children

child with fever

Paracetamol is a medicine that is commonly used in children and is available without a prescription. The main uses of paracetamol are for relief of pain and for reducing a fever.

Some of the brands of paracetamol available in Australia include Panadol, Dymadon and Panamax.

While having a raised temperature isn't always a bad thing as it can help the body's immunity, it can make you feel very uncomfortable. This is often the case with children and can lead to disturbed nights for parents, brothers and sisters. However, it’s important to realise that although taking paracetamol can make people feel better, it makes no difference to the actual course of the underlying illness.

Paracetamol is one of the most commonly used ‘over-the-counter’ medicines, especially for the minor illnesses suffered by many children. But it is not always used in the correct dosage, which may make it less effective or dangerous.

Ensure the dosage is correct

The correct dose of paracetamol for a child depends on their weight. The usual dose is 15 mg per kilogram of weight. In other words, if a baby weighs 10 kg it should have 10 x 15mg, which is 150 mg. This dose can be taken once every 4 to 6 hours, up to 4 times in 24 hours 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 60 mg per kilogram of their bodyweight 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. Paracetamol is also available in different strengths for different age groups. Check the dosage instructions on the bottle.

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, for example, if the strength of a bottle of paracetamol syrup is 100 mg/mL a 10 kg baby needs 150 mg which is only 1.5 mL of syrup.

Make sure that you use the measuring device that comes with the medicine to ensure you are giving the correct dose.

It’s also important to check whether any other medicines your child has taken contain paracetamol, and to check whether another caregiver has already given your child a dose of paracetamol.

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. And remember that it may take up to 60 minutes for paracetamol to take effect.

Always keep medicines out of the reach of children.

When to see the doctor

Paracetamol can help your child feel better, but does not treat the cause of their symptoms. Taking paracetamol makes no difference to the actual course of the underlying illness, its severity or outcome.

If your child is clearly unwell, has severe or long-lasting pain, or has been needing paracetamol for more than 48 hours, you should see your doctor.

Last Reviewed: 31 December 2015
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References

1. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. Pain relief for children – Paracetamol and ibuprofen (April 2013). http://www.rch.org.au/kidsinfo/fact_sheets/Pain_relief_for_children_-_Paracetamol_and_Ibuprofen/ (accessed Nov 2015).
2. Australian Government Department of Health. Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Recommended paracetamol doses, 26 Aug 2013 (updated 4 Nov 2015). https://www.tga.gov.au/community-qa/recommended-paracetamol-doses (accessed Nov 2015).
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