Desperate parents seeking a quick fix to their baby’s sleep issues are being warned against resorting to drugs.
Medication containing promethazine, such as Phenergan Elixir, which is an antihistamine for children over two, is being used by some parents to make their babies drowsy at bedtime.
The drug can have harmful side effects when not used correctly, some potentially fatal.
Baby Sleep Consultant founder Emma Purdue said one of her sleep consultants had noticed the issue recently and expressed concern.
Purdue said drugging babies was not the answer and it was only ever going to be a quick fix if underlying reasons for the poor sleeping were not looked at.
“We have parents asking us about this all the time. We would say go and speak to your doctor about this and definitely never use it for babies.”
One Christchurch-based pharmacist said she often had parents asking her about using the pharmacist-only medicine as a way to help their baby sleep better.
She said she would not sell it if she thought it was incorrectly used just for sedation.
Auckland pharmacist Zuber Patel said sedating children could be very dangerous if there were any underlying issues.
“If they want to use it as an anti-histamine or for travel it’s probably safe, but I would be very reluctant to use it for parents just to sedate their children.”
those cases they had done the consultation and would be satisfied with the usage.
MedSafe warns that Phenergan could lead to fatal breathing issues during sleep in children under two.
Excessive dosage could also lead to hyperactivity, convulsions and sudden death.
Purdue said dangerous advice given to sleep-deprived parents on social media and internet parenting forums meant desperate parents were making bad decisions all for a good night’s sleep.
A quick browse of online parenting forums revealed a lot of parents had used the drug on their baby for sedation and recommended others do the same.
There were occasions when sedation might be acceptable, like for a toddler with sleep-related anxiety or for a toddler on a long haul flight, Purdue said.
But for better sleep she said sleep training could work on babies in as little as three days and would bring healthier, long term results.
Purdue had also heard of parents giving their babies the sleep hormone melatonin, which she said could disrupt the brain’s production of its own natural sleep hormones.
“Just because it is natural doesn’t mean it’s fine.”
The pharmaceutical company Sanofi, which markets Phenergan, said it was a restricted medicine and was not recommended for use in children under the age of two.
“As with all medicines, it’s important that it’s taken only as directed.”
The company urged people to refer to the consumer medicine information available at the MedSafe website.
MedSafe said it was aware of the potential issue and the use of sedating antihistamines in children had been reviewed by the Medicines Adverse Reactions Committee last month.
Phenergan Elixir and Allersoothe Elixir (both containing promethazine) were available as pharmacist-only medicines as well as on prescription and details of sale must be recorded, MedSafe said.
MedSafe said pharmacists were capable of using their professional skills and judgment to determine when promethazine was an appropriate treatment option for a patient and when patients should be referred to their doctor.