Aims This study was undertaken to identify whether parents and carers of children undergoing day-case surgery are able to read and understand the dosing instructions supplied with general sales list (GSL) packs of paracetamol and ibuprofen suspension.
Methods Over a 4 week period (January to February 2012) caregivers of children aged 6 months to 8 years attending the daycase surgery ward of a UK children's hospital were approached to participate in this study. Those who agreed to participate were randomised to be interviewed about paracetamol or ibuprofen by tossing a coin. They were provided with the appropriate GSL pack of analgesic suspension, asked 14 questions and then requested to demonstrate the dose of suspension they would measure for their child. Recommendations based on the findings were then shared with nursing staff who routinely provide GSL packs to caregivers following day-case surgery.
Results 110 caregivers were approached to participate in the study. 73 agreed and were randomised to be interviewed about paracetamol (41) or ibuprofen (32). One caregiver randomised to answer questions about ibuprofen was excluded due to a contraindication to the use of ibuprofen in their child.
Eleven (15.1%) caregivers were unable to correctly identify the appropriate dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen for their child and 12 (16.4%) suggested an incorrect interval between doses. Once the appropriate dose was established, 67 (91.8%) were able to accurately measure the correct amount using the medicine spoon provided with the pack.
Caregivers were asked when they would give the next dose if their child received a dose at 9:00 h. 12 (16.4%) were not able to identify the right time with answers ranging between 2–8 h following the initial dose.
When caregivers were asked about what action they would take if their child experienced pain 2 h after giving a dose of analgesic, 10 (13.7%) stated they would give another dose immediately, 35 (47.9%) said they would wait for 4 h and 28 (38.4%) stated they would give an alternative analgesic.
Conclusions This study has shown that although the majority of caregivers understand the dosing instructions included in GSL packs of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen suspension, at least 1 in 8 caregivers are not able to interpret the information provided in order to use these products optimally for their children. This study did not evaluate whether patient information for different brands of analgesics was easier to use but the need for understandable information about simple analgesics is vitally important to ensure these drugs are used safely and effectively in children.