Minding our medicines

We all take medicines, either those prescribed by the doctors or those we buy over the counter. And yes, of course, our bodies often need medicine to help it heal, reject a virus or infection, or keep it working. But, all too often, we take the medicines we consume for granted. 

For many of us, when our bodies feel pain, for example we feel the onset of a headache; we immediately reach for a pain reliever. These over the counter relievers are easy to access, quick and keep us all going, but do we ever stop and remember, as with all medicine, there is potential risk or even that they are medicine at all!

In 2013, 4.7% of Australians aged 14 or older had misused a pharmaceutical in the previous 12 months. Painkillers and analgesics made up 3.3% of this with 78% of those being over the counter painkillers.

Increasingly common is the use of analgesics amongst secondary school children. The 2011 ASSAD survey revealed that 72% of 15 year old surveyed has used an analgesic in the past month and in all age groups females were significantly more likely to use analgesics than males. In all instances headaches were sighted as the most common reason they used painkillers.

As parents we need to make sure we are fully informed when it comes to providing medicine to our children. When your child is feeling unwell speak to your local pharmacist for advice.

When you child says they feel sick, ask them where they feel sick, what’s hurting to understand why they might be feeling ill, before resorting to an analgesic. They may be dehydrated and need to drink fluids, or have strained their eyes and need some screen downtime and fresh air!

If you do need to give your child some medicine, after advice from a pharmacist or doctor, help them to understand what a medicine is, why you are giving it to them and that it needs to be taken properly.

Keep all medicines well out of the reach of little hands. Let your child know that the medicine cupboard is for adults only.

It's equally important for us to recognise our own practices, and what we role model, when it comes to medicine use. Take a few minutes to identify for yourself the reason you may have a headache and look to alternatives such as having a rest, drinking water or getting some fresh air rather than take medicinal help first.

At Life Education, our Mind Your Medicine module helps middle and upper primary school children to understand that while medicines can be helpful they can also be harmful if used inappropriately.

Do you talk to your child about medicines? What do you do when your child has a headache?

Find out how your child’s school can receive Mind Your Medicine.