Objective: To present data on the parentally-reported use of all types of medicinal products in children from 0 to 7.5 years, in a large cohort in south-west England.
Methods: Participants in the population-based Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) have been sent self-completion postal questionnaires since they were enrolled during pregnancy. The use of medicinal products has been obtained from questionnaires sent out when the study children were 4 weeks, 54, 78 and 91 months old.
Results: The data included prescription, over-the-counter and complementary and alternative medicines. Around three-quarters of study children were exposed to some form of medicinal product before 8 weeks of age. Dermatological preparations were the most commonly used products in young babies. Activated dimeticone, for treatment of colic and flatulence, was given to 16% of babies and gripe water was used by 13%. Other commonly reported products included oral and topical antifungals and ophthalmic antibiotics. Several OTC products, not licensed for use in this age group, were reported. At each of the older ages surveyed, over 95% of children had used some form of medicinal product within the previous 12-18 months. Use of several product categories was higher at 54 months than at 78 or 91 months, such as topical steroids, analgesics (mostly paracetamol) and systemic antibiotics (mainly amoxicillin). Conversely, use of other categories, such as asthma medication, throat preparations (sprays and lozenges) and anti-inflammatory products, increased with increasing age.
Conclusion: Parentally-reported use of medicinal products in the ALSPAC study children appears to be consistent with data from other sources. The use of medicinal products by young children is high and does not always conform to the product labelling.