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Calpol and other infant paracetamol pain relief

By Anna Studman

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The lowdown on Calpol and other infant paracetamol pain relief suspensions. How much they cost, what’s in them, and how much to give.

 

Many parents reach for Calpol to soothe their poorly little one in the middle of the night. The bestselling baby and child paracetamol in the UK sells more than 12m units a year in the UK, and research by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says that 84% of kids have been given Calpol by the time they reach six months.

Now, Calpol is so popular it’s a household buzzword for many families with young children. Keep scrolling for a closer look at what actually goes into childrens medicine, and for more advice on dosage.

Keep your little ones safe and healthy with our expert help on baby and child-proofing your home. See our child safety at home page for our selection of expert reviews.

Why is Calpol so expensive?

When youre continually reaching for the Calpol, the number of bottles you buy can soon add up. 

Of course, there are also own-brand infant paracetamol alternatives available from Asda, Boots, Sainsbury's, Tesco and more. Weve compared the prices of Calpol with own brand and generic infant paracetamol suspensions to find the cheapest place to get your infant pain relief. Weve also looked at the pricing difference between the medicine in a bottle and dissolvable sachets, so you can see how much you're paying per dose.

For the details, log in now to find out how you can save by switching to a different infant paracetamol pain relief.

Price of paracetamol suspension
Product Price

Calpol Infant Pain Relief Suspension - Strawberry 100ml

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Sainsbury’s Junior Paracetamol Suspension 100ml

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Galpharm for Children Paracetamol Suspension 100ml

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 Asda Infant’s Paracetamol Suspension 100ml

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Boots Pain Relief Paracetamol Suspension 100ml

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Lloyds Pharmacy Paracetamol Suspension 200ml

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Prices gathered using independent pricing-comparison website MySupermarket. Last updated August 2017.
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Families with several young children may find themselves going through 10 bottles of Calpol a year, which means paying more than £30 for the branded syrup. Our latest pricing research for childrens medicine shows that opting for a cheaper alternative guarantees a tidy saving.

If you find yourself regularly having to rush to the supermarket to stock up on pain relief in the middle of the night, try and remember to get it with your weekly shop instead. We've found it's easier to get own-brand medicines in larger supermarkets, while the smaller branches tend to stock branded medicine.

There’s also a difference depending on the type of Calpol you choose. Although individual sachets can be handy to carry around, you’re paying for convenience – a bottle of suspension will save you money, dose for dose. Which? members can log in now to see just how much you can save by shopping around.

What’s in Calpol?

Importantly, both the generic and branded medicines have exactly the same active ingredient and concentration. The active ingredient is paracetamol, with a concentration of 120mg per 5ml.

Allergy warnings are not always visible on the side of the bottle, so we've pulled together a table of some of the most common potentially allergenic ingredients in various paracetamol suspensions to help you identify where a risk might be present. Detailed information about the ingredients can be found in patient information leaflets and should always be consulted before use.

Only logged-in Which? members are able to access the full table to find out what we discovered about the additives in Calpol.

Should I go for sugar-free or colour-free Calpol?

Steve Tomlin, consultant pharmacist for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, says it’s all about balance:

He mentions ingredients, such as sorbitol, present in some paracetamol suspensions which can cause diarrhoea, and aspartame in other medicines which can be harmful to some patients.

Worries with added sugar include tooth decay, diabetes and obesity. But Tomlin points out that Calpol and paracetamol suspensions are intended for use only over the course of a day or so, and in small doses the small amount of sugar shouldn’t be a concern.

Tomlin notes that children with underlying conditions or allergies might be sensitive to some of these ingredients, suggesting parents check with their GP or pharmacist if unsure.

How long does Calpol take to work?

Steve Tomlin advises that you may start to see some effect after 20-30 minutes, but it might take up to an hour for the full effect to set in.

How much Calpol should I give my child?

Calpol should only be used as an acute medicine – that is, in small doses and for a short time. We know that parents can get confused about how much paracetamol to give their children, with concerns about giving too much, and dosage guidelines being changed in recent years.

It doesn't take too much above the normal dose over a couple of days for paracetamol to start causing problems (mainly to the liver). While a couple of millilitres extra on a one-off dose one day should not be a problem, administering the maximum dose over a few days may start to pose a health risk. Each pack of paracetamol suspensions comes with dosage guidelines organised into age bands, but Steve Tomlin urges parents to use these with caution. For example, a very small two-year-old should take a smaller dosage than the two-to-four-year-old age band.

If you're giving your child any other medicine at the same time, it's important to check that it doesn’t also contain paracetamol and that you're not ‘doubling up’. As well, if a child is being looked after by a few different people in the day – at nursery or with grandparents – a bit more of an effort to keep track of the number of doses might be necessary.

Again, the bottom line is that the odd dose for the vast majority of patients is safe, as long the medicine isn’t taken long term.

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