Well-intentioned parents who dose their feverish child with alternate doses of ibuprofen and paracetemol could inadvertently put their child's health at risk.

This stark warning comes in a report published today by the American Academy of Paediatrics, authored by Janice Sullivan, of the University of Louisville Pediatric Pharmacology Research Unit, and Dr Henry Farrar, of the University of Arkansas.

They stress that fever should not be viewed as an illness as it slows the spread of bacteria and viruses, which enhances white blood cell production and "helps the body recover more quickly from viral infections".

Parents should also be advised to practice caution when using both medicines to bring down slight temperatures, otherwise they run the risk of "overdosing" their child, as well as jeapardising the body's natural ability to recover.

The British National Formularly currently recommends that children should receive no more than four doses of paracetamol in a 24-hour period, and no more than four doses of ibuporofen. Amounts vary according to a child's age and sometimes weight.

Rather than focusing on temperature alone, health professionals should advise parents that they should ensure their child is drinking adequate amounts of fluid (preferably water). They should also "advocate a limited number" of doses of medication and be vigilant for signs of serious illness.

Dr Clare Gerada, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said the two medication should be used "only to help a child be comfortable and not to chase down a temperature."

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommends that the use of anti-pyretics should only be considered for "children with fever who appear distressed and unwell".

Posted by Penny Hosie on 28.2.11 Comment on this article by sending it to: penny.hosie@pavpub.com