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J Paediatr Child Health. 2007 Sep;43(9):601-6. Epub 2007 Jun 29.

Over-the-counter medication use for childhood fever: a cross-sectional study of Australian parents.

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Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.



To report Australian parents' medication (paracetamol, ibuprofen and homeopathic) use in childhood fever management.


A cross-sectional survey of 401 Queensland parents of children aged between 6 months and 5 years recruited through advertising (48.4%), face-to-face (26.4%) and snowball (24.4%) methods was conducted. A 17-item instrument was developed; construct and content validity were determined by an expert panel; and item reliability by test-retest with nine parents. Areas targeted were medication use and influences on and barriers to medication use.


Most participants were female, had tertiary education and lived in a major city (mean age 34.6 years). Reducing children's fever with over-the-counter medications was common (91%): 94% of parents reported using paracetamol and 77% reported using ibuprofen. A few (3.7%) used homeopathic remedies. Dosage was determined by weight (86.3%), age (84.3%), temperature (32.4%), illness severity (31.4%) and lethargy (20.9%). Frequency was determined by instructions on the medication label (55.3%), temperature (40.6%) and well-being (27.7%). Ibuprofen was administered too frequently by 31.5% (four hourly by 22.8%), and paracetamol by 3.8%. Fifty-two per cent had alternated medications, 65.8% of these for temperatures below 38.5 degrees C. Decisions to alternate were influenced by information from doctors/hospitals (49.5%) and children remaining febrile post-antipyretic (41.7%). Most parents reported over-the-counter medications as potentially harmful (73.2%), citing liver (38.2%), stomach (26.4%) and kidney (18.6%) damage and overdose (35.7%) as concerns. When medications were refused or spat out (44.0%), parents used force (62.4%), different methods (29.5%) or suppositories (20.8%).


Most parents used over-the-counter medications to reduce fever, often below 38.5 degrees C. The belief that these medications were harmful was overridden by fears of harmful outcomes from fever.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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