Research Article

Use of drugs by children.

BMJ 1988; 297 doi: (Published 13 August 1988) Cite this as: BMJ 1988;297:445
  1. G. W. Rylance,
  2. C. G. Woods,
  3. R. E. Cullen,
  4. M. E. Rylance
  1. Children's Hospital, Ladywood Middleway, Birmingham.


    To obtain information on the use of prescribed and non-prescribed drugs in the general population of children 1590 children were surveyed in 1984-5 by weekly questionnaires filled out by parents. Drugs were taken in 13% of the 26 weeks studied and on 9% of the 182 days. Use in the summer and winter was similar. More than half (56%) of all drugs were taken on Saturdays and Sundays. Boys took drugs on 11% of days and girls on 8% of days. Almost half (45%) of drugs taken were not prescribed. Drugs acting on the respiratory tract and on coughs accounted for 42.2% of the drugs used. Analgesics were taken on 14.0% of days and antimicrobials on 12.5%. Aspirin accounted for 14.9% of all drugs used in any one week and for 31.7% of drugs obtained without prescription. Aspirin, paracetamol, triprolidine-pseudoephedrine (Actifed), ampicillin or amoxycillin, and salbutamol were the drugs most frequently used. The widespread use of drugs obtained without prescription suggests that community pharmacists and parents would benefit from further education on the choice of treatment in relation to symptoms. Doctors should be aware of the extent of treatment with non-prescription drugs and consider playing a greater part in advising on its indications.