Use of over-the-counter medicines for young children in Australia

J Paediatr Child Health. 2010 Jan;46(1-2):5-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1440-1754.2009.01609.x. Epub 2009 Nov 23.


Aim: To describe over-the-counter (OTC) medicine use by Australian parents for children aged birth to 24 months; types of medicines used and indications for use.

Methods: A cross-sectional survey of parents was conducted using a self-administered over-the-counter medicine use questionnaire. A total of 640 questionnaires were distributed to parents of children who attended a hospital outpatient clinic, maternal and child health centre, or a childcare service in Melbourne, Australia.

Results: A total of 325 questionnaires were completed (50.1%). Of these, 98.2% of parents had reportedly purchased at least one OTC medicine for their child in the previous 12 months. The most commonly purchased medicines were: paracetamol (acetaminophen) (95.9%), choline salicylate (47.3%), ibuprofen (36.4%), and cough and cold products (46.7%). Paracetamol was commonly used for a high temperature (82.4%) and non-specific pain (62.3%). Over 40% of parents had used cough and cold products to treat cold and flu symptoms. Nineteen (6.1%) parents had used OTC medicines to induce sleep or settle their child.

Conclusions: Most parents had used at least one OTC medicine to manage childhood symptoms. Of concern is that over 40% of parents had used cough and cold products for their young child, despite a lack of evidence surrounding their efficacy. In order to minimise risks associated with OTC medicine use, particularly cough and cold products, health-care providers need to continue the provision of current evidence-based information to parents regarding safe and appropriate use of medicines for their child.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Victoria
  • Young Adult


  • Nonprescription Drugs