Parents might buy over-the-counter medicines without any reservations, but their lack of knowledge about the dosage of the medicine puts their children at a high risk, says a new study.

The researchers, led by Dr. Rebekah Moles from the University of Sydney, New South Wales, say that dosing errors and inappropriate use of such medicines lead to a large number of calls to poison centres as well as emergency hospital admissions.

“We were surprised and concerned to find that some people thought that medicines must be safe because you can buy them without prescription,” said Moles.

And because doses for children are often small, the risk of getting the measurement wrong is greatly increased, said the researchers.

Their study found that 15percent of participants would give a medicine without taking their child’s temperature, and 55percent would give medicine when the temperature was less than 38 degrees.

Paracetamol was the preferred treatment, even for coughs and cold, and was used most often — 61percent of the time -- despite the child having no fever.

Another report said that 85per cent of all calls regarding accidental overdose in children involved those under five, with almost 80per cent of incidents involving those under three.

“However, the most important thing is to improve carers’ understanding of when and how to give medication. We are extending our research to look for any associations that make parent and carer skills better or worse, for example their level of education and socio-economic status,” said Moles.

“It is vital that parents worldwide should understand the proper usage of medicines so that they do not continue to put their children’s health at risk,” concluded Moles.