Hundreds of children in Tayside, including more than 50 pre-schoolers, have been rushed to hospital after overdosing on paracetamol in the last three years.
New figures show that 382 children under the age of 18 overdosed on the over-the-counter painkiller in 2018, 2019 and up to November 25 2020.
The cases include at least one instance of a baby under the age of one having suspected paracetamol poisoning in 2020.
Last year 126 children overdosed on paracetamol in the region, including 24 17-year-olds, 35 16-year-olds and 30 15-year-olds.
At least seven children under the age of eight were also treated for suspected paracetamol poisoning.
There were also 140 children overdosing on paracetamol in 2019 and 116 in 2018.
Parents warned about number of doses in a day
Parents are now being told to make sure they read the information leaflet before giving any medicine to their children.
Paracetamol poisoning can cause stomach pains and nausea, and in severe cases can lead to liver failure, kidney failure and in some cases can lead to death.
Doses for children vary according to age, but again parents are warned not to give more than four doses in 24 hours.
A spokeswoman for NHS Tayside said: “Taking too much paracetamol can be very dangerous.
“Anyone who has taken more than the recommended maximum dose should contact NHS 24 on 111.
“Overdose may occur after taking a large amount of paracetamol in a single dose or taking multiple doses which exceed the recommended amount.
“Untreated paracetamol poisoning can cause liver damage, multiple organ failure and, in some cases, death.
“After taking too much paracetamol, people may feel sick, vomit or have stomach pain, but often there are no obvious symptoms to begin with so it’s important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity.”
Top pharmacist urges people who are unsure to seek medical advice
Clare Morrison, Scotland director at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said anyone who is unsure about the medicine they are taking should speak to a pharmacist, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
She said: “There are two types of paracetamol overdose, intentional which is when someone deliberately takes a larger than recommended does, and non-intentional where perhaps someone has bought a number of different products which all contain paracetamol and they are not aware they were taking multiple amounts of it.
“For very young children it is more likely to be non-intentional overdose and my advice would be to get help from a pharmacist.
“If you are considering combining medicine a pharmacist can explain whether or not they both contain paracetamol or whether they are safe to take together.
“Pharmacists are always willing to help people take their medicine safely.
“If anyone is concerned about going into a pharmacy at the moment there are other ways to get a consultation over the phone and some are offering video consultations as well.
“If an overdose goes untreated it can progress to something more seriously after a few days which is why getting medical advice is important even if you have mild symptoms.
“If you are wanting to take more to get more of an effect on pain management, rather than adding more paracetamol seek advice on what is safer.”
Ms Morrison added it is also important people seek support for the mental health if they are considering an intentional paracetamol overdose.
She said: “For intentional overdoses, please seek mental health support.
“There are lots of really good resources and people can get the support they need to prevent themselves from feeling like they want to take an overdose.”
Plea for parents learn more about paracetamol
Reacting to the statistics on children overdosing on paracetamol, North East MSP Liam Kerr urged new parents to make sure they are clued up on how to give painkillers to their child.
He said: “Liver failure can affect someone for the rest of their lives.
“It is heart-breaking to think young people of any age will be left to deal with the consequences of something they don’t understand.
“It seems there are two age groups in Tayside which are acutely at risk of overdose.
“Parents need to keep to strict timings and dosage sizes for babies and infants – that’s critical.
“All these cases will be completely accidental and the result of inadvertent mistakes.
“That’s why it’s crucial to highlight what can happen.
“This message needs to be brought home to new parents in guidance and literature.”
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents is also urging Tayside parents to make sure medicines are kept in a locked cupboard in a bid to stop accidental paracetamol overdoses.
Keep harmful substances out of sight and reach of children
Jo Bullock, executive head of awareness and education at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents said: “Most poisoning accidents to children involve medicines, household cleaning products and cosmetics.
“To prevent such accidents among young children, keeping medicines and other potentially harmful products out of the sight and reach of children, preferably in a locked cupboard, is recommended and such products should also be purchased in child-resistant containers wherever possible.
“Dispose of unwanted medicines safely so they are not left in the home unnecessarily, and talk to a pharmacist if you need advice on how to do this.
“When considering the misuse of drugs through abuse or dependence, including that involving legal drugs and medicines, we would like to see further research into this issue among children and young people.
“Such research is vital in order to develop the evidence base related to the causes of harm and the potential interventions that could reduce such harm.
“There is clearly a shared agenda between those engaged in efforts to reduce drug-taking as a public health priority in itself and those engaged in the prevention of accidental injury.”