Baby se­da­tion could be fa­tal


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 2, 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 an­ti­his­tamine or for travel it’s prob­a­bly safe, but I would be very re­luc­tant to use it for par­ents just to se­date their chil­dren.’’

Pa­tel said doc­tors did, at times, pre­scribe Phen­er­gan for those pur­poses but in 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 2. 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.

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.

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