Background: Sales of paracetamol in paediatric formulations are increasing and antibiotics are frequently prescribed to children. Our aim was to study the use of paracetamol and antibiotics in different age groups among preschool children.
Material and methods: Parents of 1312 children (99% response rate) visiting public health centres were asked to state how often their child had been sick, used paracetamol, seen a doctor, or used antibiotics during the previous three months. If the child had used antibiotics, parents were asked to give the reason for treatment, the name of the drug used, and the duration of treatment.
Results: 71% of the children had been sick, 46% had received paracetamol, 36% had seen a doctor, and 12% had used antibiotics. The highest frequency of illness and paracetamol use was seen among children one to two years of age. Otitis was the main reason for using antibiotics in children of one to four years of age, and the duration of treatment was often longer than recommended.
Interpretation: Use of paracetamol is widespread among preschool children. Parents going back to work after maternity leave and more frequent fever resulting from exposure to infections may contribute to an increased use of paracetamol. Restrictive use of antibiotics for otitis and shorter treatment duration continue to be emphasised.