Q: My friends and i are becoming concerned about one of the mums we know. There is no question she dotes on her 9 month old, who is happy and healthy, and she is clearly a loving mother. However, from the things she says, we are starting to wonder if she is giving him cough and cold medicines to help him sleep at night if he won't settle - it seems she reaches for them a little too quickly. We know she has misled pharmacists about his age in order to buy medicines over the counter, which she then gives to him as it 'used to be ok'. We might be wrong, but what if we're not?
A: The issue of over-medicating children has gained a lot of publicity in recent times, and there have been a very small number of cases where parents have accidentally overdosed their children on cough and cold medicines.
Some of these medications contain a combination of medicinal ingredients. Therefore, it is believed that parents of under twos could unwittingly give their child too high a dose, either by administering too much medicine, or by alternating products without realising they contain the same ingredients.
Because of this, much tougher age restrictions have been placed on these medications and they have been removed from shelves, relabelled and in some cases, can only be purchased over the counter.
You need to ascertain how often your friend is giving her son these medicines. First of all, is she aware of the age restrictions – perhaps she has a bottle with old labelling and is still under the impression that it is ok to give them to her son, and therefore is happy to carry on doing so?
Alternatively, has you asked whether or not she is acting under her doctor's advice? While labelling instructions have changed, these medications may still be suitable for use with younger babies - but only after consultation with, and direction from, a GP or other qualified health professional.
If you find you are unable to have this conversation, perhaps it would be worth speaking to your health visitor? She may be able to speak to your friend and ascertain how much medication is being given to her son and provide the correct advice and guidance. She may also be in a position to determine whether or not your friend is suffering from some form of depression and is struggling to cope with a sleepless baby.
As long as your friend's son is happy and healthy, no one is going to question her overall parenting ability, but it does sound as though she need some guidance on medicines and their correct usage and you are right to tactfully raise this as an issue with her.