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Self-medicating your child? Stop!



Medications are substances/drugs used for treating diseases and maintaining health.

Drugs may either be prescription or nonprescription drugs. Prescription drugs require a physician’s prescription before they can be purchased and a major example is antibiotics, says Pediatrician Osueni Gold Oseluese.

“On the other hand, nonprescription drugs (also known as over-the-counter drugs) don’t require a prescription before they can be purchased, for example, paracetamol, vitamins and cough preparations.”


Dr. Oseluese said that self-medication means diagnosing and treating one’s ailments without a physician’s prescription.

Sometimes, it may involve the use of leftover medications from a previous illness.

Purchasing prescription and non-prescription drugs are both considered as self-medication, if they have not been prescribed by a physician for that particular illness.

Most surveys have shown that over 50 per cent of parents self-medicate their children irrespective of socioeconomic status, level of education and geographic location.

In developed climes, the drugs most used are paracetamol, ibruprofen and cough/allergy preparations whereas in developing countries like Nigeria, the most purchased drugs are paracetamol, analgesics, antibiotics and antimalarial.

The use of antibiotics without a due prescription from a physician can be considered as irrational drug use and is a major risk factor for the emergence of antimicrobial resistance especially in developing countries like Nigeria.


She revealed that another topical issue would be the use of herbal concoctions.

A study in Aba, South Eastern Nigeria in 2015 by Okonkwo and Chapp-Jumbo showed that 26.2 per cent of the children studied received herbal concoctions before arriving at the hospital and there was a significant risk of mortality in these children.

“Most parents would say the commonest complaints for which they would chose to treat their children without a physician’s input included fever, cough and catarrh, frequent watery stools and abdominal pains which are very common symptoms in the first five years of a child’s life.

Unfortunately, most of the time, this sometimes leads to double prescription like giving two brands of paracetamol with different names and irrational use of antibiotics because they are under the wrong impression that is the cure for all childhood ailments.

Unfortunately, most illnesses, especially in young children, are of viral origin and antibiotics would have no place in their treatment.

“Although self-medicating is believed to be cheaper and more convenient by the parents who practice it, the disadvantages far outweigh any possible benefits especially in children.

Children are most vulnerable to the untoward effects of medications and would be the ones to suffer the brunt of the emerging menace of antibiotic resistance.

Imagine a world where bacteria strains are no longer susceptible to all the available antibiotics and unfortunately, pharmaceuticals are not able to create new ones fast enough.”


The pediatrician noted that other dangers involved in self-medicating children would include under estimating the illness and ending up with lasting complications and even death in many cases.

Overdosing or under-dosing of these medications can result in longer admission time, treatment costs and even death.

Sometimes parents treat every symptom the child has and end up with a profusion of medications that really do not benefit the children.

Some of these drugs could have harmful interactions with one another.

So what is the way forward? “There needs to be an aggressive educational intervention for prescribers, distributors and consumers of all medications especially prescription drugs like antibiotics.

Even the use of nonprescription drugs needs to be regulated as their abuse can have devastating consequences, especially for children.

Strict policies need to be put in place to limit the availability of antibiotics without a prescription.

The Primary healthcare facilities need to be running effectively to curb this menace at the grassroots.

And ultimately, with a sustainable and functional health insurance scheme, prompt and comprehensive healthcare can be offered to our children, reducing the need for such a harmful practice,” Dr. Oseluese added.

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