Warning about Children's Panadol dosage

This example shows how to measure an 8mL dose.
This example shows how to measure an 8mL dose. Photo: Department of Health Therapeutic Goods Administration

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has issued a safety advisory warning parents about confusion when using the dosing syringe supplied with a Children's Panadol product.

The advisory was issued due to concerns incorrect usage of the syringe could lead to children being given an overdose of paracetamol.

"The active ingredient in Children's Panadol 1-5 Years Colourfree Suspension is paracetamol. Paracetamol has been used in Australia for the relief of pain and fever since the 1950s and is available in many different forms for adults and children," the advisory reads.

"Paracetamol is safe and effective when taken as directed on the label. However, if taken either in overdose or in amounts that exceed the recommended dose for more than a few days, the unwanted effects can be severe."

The confusion with the Panadol syringe stems from the fact that to measure a correct dose, the widest part of the plunger needs to be in line with the desired dosage marking on the syringe.

"This differs from most syringes which measure to the tip of the plunger where the liquid finishes," the advisory reads. 

"With the Children's Panadol syringe, the liquid continues past the tip of the plunger and therefore needs be measured to where the widest sides of the plunger meet the barrel of the syringe."

If the syringe is used to measure in the incorrect way, an extra 1.26mls will be given with each dose of Children's Panadol.

Excessive doses of paracetamol can be harmful to the liver and the harmful effects can be fatal if not detected and treated.

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Potential overdoses should be treated seriously as the harmful effects of large amounts of paracetomal are usually delayed, so a person can feel well for 24 hours after the overdose but become very ill after that.

However the TGA states that even if the extra amount of paracetamol is given to children in each dose due to confusion caused by the syringe, the risk of toxicity is minimal if parents follow the advice to only give four doses in any 24 hour period and not to use for more than 48 hours. 

 "If used for more than two days and more than four times daily there is an increased risk of toxicity," the advisory warns.

The TGA is working with Panadol manufacturers GSK to determine whether advice on the packaging of Children's Panadol need to be improved to warn of the possible of confusion with syringe measurements.

Parents and caregivers who think a child might have been given an overdose of paracetamol are advised to call the Poisons Information Centre on 131 126 or their doctor, or go to the nearest hospital emergency department even if the child does not appear to be sick.

The new warning comes 10 months after a mix-up with Panadol's printing process which meant parents could have been unwittingly giving their children extra Baby Drops Children's Panadol

Anyone with questions about this latest issue can contact GSK Consumer Healthcare on 1800 028 533.