Over the counter medications and the truth about teething

1 Feb 2001

Over the counter (OTC) medications are commonly used in the community. It is thought by many that they are safe because they are freely available and not regulated by prescription. However, many are of unproven benefit, some preparations do more harm than good, others are toxic in overdose and interactions between OTC preparations and prescription medication can be harmful. 

This article looks at analgesics and antipyretics, decongestants, oral rehydrating liquids, topical agents and treatments for constipation.

The second article considers teething. Many people associate teething with irritability, drooling, red cheeks, and of course local itchiness and irritation of the affected gum.

Diarrhoea, nappy rash, eczema, 'strong urine', increased risk of infection, fever and sleep disturbances may also spring to mind. Similar views are held by most parents and by many maternal and child health nurses, chemists, general practitioners, dentists, and paediatricians randomly sampled across Victoria in surveys conducted by the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) in 1997.

But the truth appears to be somewhat different. The CCCH has now completed a prospective study of children aged six months to three years in three Melbourne long day care centres.

Every morning for seven months, parents reported on the presence of a range of common symptoms over the preceding 24 hours. Every afternoon for seven months, carers reported on the same symptoms over that day. And in the middle of each day, a trained dental therapist examined the mouth, recording the presence of any new teeth and the stage of eruption, and checked each child’s temperature.

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