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"Doping Your Children"

(117 Posts)
Tigermoth Thu 10-May-01 13:06:45

My childminder recently mentioned I could buy some phenergen for my toddler, if I was having problems with him on long car journeys, as a very last resort. It helps them sleep. She's very responsible and gave me lots warnings about it. I decided to look up this message thread to see what others think. What a revealation!

Binza Thu 10-May-01 20:15:51

I didn't read the whole article but I am shocked! I am the mum who was shocked that an acquaintance admitted to boring a bigger hole in the teat of the bottle so that she could add rusks to the babies milk at 4wks old. Giving children medicine when it's not necessary is unforgivable in my opinion. It's the thin end of the wedge and not something I would ever consider doing no matter how badly I needed them to be quiet. I keep thinking about the man on the plane story and I find it so hard to believe that anyone would ask someone else to sedate a child for their own benefit! Perhaps my horror comes from my nursing training when it was so important to get the dose right and that the slightest error can make a big difference.

Lizzer Thu 10-May-01 22:37:51

Tigermoth, I've heard a tale about phenergan, not that it's actually done any permanent damage or anything, but an aquaintance (who doesn't have quite the same ideas on parenting as myself, shall we politely say) gave it to her bad sleeper of a son when he was just a year old (i.e. he wasn't quite sleeping through the night) so she could have a good night's sleep. However, apparently he was in such a deep sleep and looked so pale and 'out of it' she couldn't sleep a wink that night as she feared he would stop breathing. Guess that's instant karma for you!

I sympathise with your travelling scenario though as I have six 5 hour car journeys ahead of me this summer in the space of 5 weeks which I'm not looking forward to one single bit and will probably take twice as long, but I still wouldn't even be tempted to give it to my daughter....

Tigermoth Fri 11-May-01 10:03:55

Can I pose a question? I am not all keen on the idea of giving my son phernegen to dope him. I agree that all medication should be given for the benefit of the child, not the parent. However please bear with me:

He's 21 months old and he can completely wriggle out of his car seat in 3 minutes flat. I have tried everything to stop this (see baby houdini board), including buying him a new car seat at Easter (his third), tying extra elastic round the shoulder straps (a mumsnet tip),giving him crisps and toys and trying to control him by stopping the car, telling him off and even slapping him ( which I absolutely hate to do!!).

Luckily he does not wriggle out all the time, and usually I can stop the car it he does and reposition him, but in some road conditions it is not possible, so there's always a risk. And it's a nagging worry at the back of my mind when I'm driving. Even when a passenger is sitting next to him to restrain him, he will wriggle out.

Of course, one answer is to never use the car with my toddler.ie any weekend or holiday, not to mention walking him, and all his day luggage, 15 minutes to his childminder each morning. That would drastically change our whole family lifestyle. Also, he's not going to learn to sit still in his car seat if he's never in it.

Another answer is to dope him with phenergen on some long car journeys, so he sleeps safely in his car seat. He is still too young to be given phenengen (needs to be 2 years) but when that time comes, what should I do? As medication, it would be given for the benefit of the child - his safety - as well as for my peace of mind. I just don't know where I stand on this. Over to you.

Paula1 Fri 11-May-01 12:10:21

Tigermoth, he will grow out of the houdini thing I'm sure, my little one used to do it too, but has stopped completely. I don't actually know anything about Phenergen, but I would not have thought that it would make him sleep unless he was tired too? If it really is so strong that it can make a wide awake child sleep like a zombie do you really want to use it? My doctor gave me Piriton (which is also a hayfever/allergy medicine) to use when I was at my wits end with my child not sleeping at night. It came with strict warnings not to use often, not to exceed stated dose. I've used it about 3 times in the 2 years since he gave it, and it did enable him to get a proper amount of sleep and wake up without being grouchy and irritable. But I don't think the Piriton would work on a wide awake child, it didn't make him go to sleep any sooner than without the drug, just made him stay asleep.

Sc Fri 11-May-01 12:43:42

I used Phenergen on my son (15 years ago), when he was poorly. I was advised to by my doctor in order that my son would sleep (for his benefit not mine!); however, many children will 'fight' the sedative effects of Phenergen (as mine did!), and you will end up with a toddler, who's very very tired, but fighting it. This went on for hours in my case, I think he finally went to sleep about 4 in the morning!

Plus there were some comments about not using Calpol unless absolutely necessary, and only when the child was screaming. Is it not crueller to leave it until a child feels very poorly and upset before giving the medicine; when a dose given in good time would be much kinder.

Sml Fri 11-May-01 13:16:35

Tigermoth, it seems to me that smacking your son does not carry a higher responsibility on your side than drugging him. If you use a drug to control his behaviour, this is just as forceful as smacking and implies the same degree of control over his behaviour, however, in addition, you are depriving your son of however much extra time he is sleepy due to the drug, and I don't think any parent has the right to do that.
The benefit to your son of taking the drug is not a direct one as it would be if he was ill. I have at times stopped the car pretty frequently to re-attach an escapee, but I must admit that mine usually get the message after the third or fourth time, so no need to smack. Sweets help to distract.

Binza Fri 11-May-01 17:25:27

I sympathise with your predicament with your escaping son and am sure it is a phase that will pass. I know it doesn't help to hear that now but I had one who wouldn't go into a car seat and we used to have to battle to strap her in sometimes three or four adults holding various limbs and prising her fingers off the dag guard behind her!! We spent months avoiding car journeys but she did eventually stop it. I still do not advocate giving sedatives to children but have you thought that it may not work anyway? My daughter has been prescribed both Phenergan and Clarytin for ear problems and neither of them had any sedative effect on her at all. Having said that I stopped using them as they didn't appear to be improving her hearing either. This may not prove to be the answer.

Willow2 Fri 11-May-01 18:48:30

My three siblings and I lived on Phenergan - but then it was the 70's. We loved it as it tasted nice, so much so that we nicknamed it "sweetie medicine". It used to come out every time we had tonsilitis or some other nasty and were feeling rough.My mum admits it did help to calm us down, but not to the point where we slept for days - When I asked my GP what had happened to it she said she only prescribed it nowadays for kids with ADHD - my mum was somewhat shocked to say the least. Maybe they have changed the "recipe", or maybe we have just become a bit more concerned about what we pump into our kids - either way I would rather not administer it to my child.

Robinw Fri 11-May-01 20:12:08

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Chairmum Fri 11-May-01 23:31:04

Phenergan is also precribed for travel sickness in children who can't take tablets. It has a horrible effect on my daughter, though. She zooms around for hours at supersonic speed leaving a trail of devastation in her wake!

She also displays the same symptoms with the medication she sometimes needs for asthma, worst luck.

Stc Sat 12-May-01 19:10:45

Tigermoth, friends of ours who had the same problem with car seat escapes used walking reins attached aound the back of the carseat with some success. I don't think making him sleepy in his seat would solve your problem on the occasions when he wasn't sleepy.
Weren't the seventies an easier time for parents? I remember being packed into the back of a van, 4 kids, no seats never mind seatbelts!! I'm not advocating a return to this, of course!!

Phenergan is very similar to Piriton, I think that VERY occasional use to stop parents reaching the end of their tether is probably better than everyone becoming overwrought and losing perspective, sleep deprivation is incredibly difficult to deal with if it is sustained.

Tiktok Sun 13-May-01 08:03:46

The wriggling out of car seat scenario is just like a lot of other behaviours in toddler hood - the child sees no benefit in staying in the car seat, and the parent has to insist. The benefit to him of wriggling out the car seat is you go bananas at him : ) Also you're going bananas at a time when your attention is not on him - heavens, you're not even *looking at him* 'cos you're driving! So he achieves his aim of getting attention and a free show of entertaining crossness/anger/frustration etc....

Could you try a complete change of tack and reduce the attention he gets when he wriggles out, and increase it when he is in his seat not wriggling out? That means lots of songs and daft noises, maybe mirrors so you and he can see each other, and huge and continous praise when he is sitting in it without wriggling and a bribe as soon as he starts to do it....21 months may just be old enough for this - 'if you stay in your seat, look what lovely thing I have for you....!'

If he does wriggle out, stop the car and without a word or even looking at him, put him back in again. This is actually quite hard, but it's worth trying - not a single word, and not a glance, and no cross body language.

Worth a try??? : )

Sml Sun 13-May-01 13:28:12

Robinw, sweets are not mood altering for most children, nor do they affect your child's sleep patterns. The risk of dental caries is much reduced if the child has a balanced diet and follows a sensible dental hygiene routine. If you drug your child to sleep, they may still fall asleep close to the time they are used to from sheer habit, so overall, they are likely to sleep longer than normal. And if they don't, you may have them awake half the night! In the latter case, by your arguments, if you were therefore kept from sleeping you would be justified in doping your children again, so that you could get a good night's sleep to look after them properly the following day!
I can assure you that I have had my share of problems with my children's behaviour, but the thought of doping them into docile and safe conduct has never been considered while other options remain, however tedious and inconvenient to me personally the other options may be.

Mel Sun 13-May-01 14:54:50

Perhaps there are no other options and desperate measures are all that remain?
Phenergen had an appalling affect on my son the one time we used it. We actually delayed a flight because he was so hyper and screaming! NEVER again! Piriton also seems to have no doping effect whatsoever, he has had to take adult doses as a 1 year old because of a severe allergy to egg white, and despite the doctor telling us that he would probably sleep like a log, he raced around for hours!!

Robinw Sun 13-May-01 19:55:09

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Bloss Mon 14-May-01 07:31:10

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Sml Mon 14-May-01 08:48:08

Robinw, national statistics on children's dental progress do not concern me that much. I don't mind letting mine have sweets from time to time because I know that our dental routines are good, ie lots of brushing as well as visits to the dentist etc, and a generally healthy diet.
I never said I had had "the odd" problem - you added that. My daughter's sleeping was erratic for her first year, though not to the extent that you mention - after the first 4 months she would usually sleep around 7 hours a night. Before that, there were plenty of nights when she barely slept at all! I always kept a grip by telling myself that I would win in the end - she would finally HAVE to go to sleep! It may sound silly, but I've always dreamt about solo sailing, and I used to remind myself that I would have to catnap in short bursts if I was sailing the Atlantic, in case a supertanker appeared over the horizon!
For six months in my first job after returning to work, I was breastfeeding my youngest baby 4-5 times a night. I was also getting up at 5.50 am, leaving the house at 7.15 am with two small children in the pushchair, walking a mile and a half which included a very steep hill, dropping them at nursery, travelling 30 miles to work, and back, doing a demanding job in between, picking up children at 6pm, walking back home, cooking supper and putting them to bed. So no one can tell me anything I don't know about tiredness! During this time, it would certainly have made my life easier if my children had always slept through the night - but I still feel very strongly that I would not have been justified in doping them.
Anyway, this is getting away from the original problem which was whether it's justifiable to dope them for their own safety in the car.

Sml Mon 14-May-01 08:54:31

Mel, there is always the option - shock horror! of not using the car at all! It depends how strongly you feel about all the issues involved. Several of our cars haven't had rear seatbelts fitted at all (they were old cars), so car seats weren't feasible for the older children, so we just drove slowly and didn't let our children climb out of the back seat.

Marina Mon 14-May-01 09:08:57

Tigermoth, have you thought about getting a clip-on table for your son's car-seat? It would be harder for him to struggle out of and he could also have a few toys, books etc to play with. Of course, he would probably still toss them onto the floor, but it would give him a flat surface to play on which might alleviate the boredom.
I find a small packet of chocolate buttons keeps ours quiet for a very long time.

Croppy Mon 14-May-01 10:34:23

Agree wholeheartedly with you SML. Also can't see that giving sweets can be compared to giving medicine which is not medically required.

Tigermoth Mon 14-May-01 13:55:20

Well I took houdini in the car for an hours journey at the weekend. Pondered on SMl's suggestion 'try sweets'. Phenergen, sweets, both 'evils' but at least I don't have to wait till he's 2 years old to give him a bag of marshmallows. So his lordship sat there ploughing his way through them. Reflected that for a non-talking tiny, he's doing rather too well at getting his own way: sits next to me on the front passenger seat, so I can keep a firm eye on him while I drive (older brother gets banished to the back) and he gets sweets and crisps on tap. This doesn't set a good precedent for future behaviour control, does it? And,taking RobinW's point, what about his poor little teeth - and all the sugar, additives salt etc entering his blood stream?

However, according to messages here,phenergen and piriton can have a delayed effect, if any at all, and may make him sleepy for a long time. I'd hate to drive him to a nice destination only to have him wandering around in a drugged haze. Why bother to go out for the day in the first place?

On our journey, my son didn 't attempt a full escape, so the sweets proved some distraction, however he still repeatedly wriggled free of the shoulder straps. According to an old mumsnet message, a member here was told by a child car seat manufacturer that as long as your child is secured by the waist strap, they are safe. She was doubtful about this and so am I. So we still have a problem there. I must do some research on this.

I will try the harness and tray ideas.Thank you very much for those. But looking on the dark side, the problem is that the more he's straped and wedged into his seat, the harder it could be to free him quickly in an emergency.

Also Tiktok, thanks for your suggestions. If my older son was the wriggler I would do just as you say. My toddler just isn't talking enough for me to reason with him, an unfortunately he has to have attention when he is bad becasue he puts himself in an unsafe position. However I will definitely try and reduce the eye contact etc and do lots of the positive reinforcement examples you've given.

As Bloss says quite rightly in my opinion, I'd rather have a sleepy baby than a dead one, but from what information I've gleaned here, I don't think phenergen is going to knock him out anyway. And that's before I've even attempted to overcome my huge reluctance to 'dope' him. So no phenergen.

Leaving aside all this, I tend to think children's medication is a good thing if used wisely and according to doctor's instructions. I hate to see my sons crying in genuine pain and wouldn't withhold calpol or anything else if I felt this could help. They both sleep OK so I've had no need to 'dope' them on this account. If they didn't sleep well I'd follow every non-medicine avenue to help them but wouldn't rule out anything, the odd spoon of phenergen included.

To me the real danger is that medication or sweet bribery etc can be habit forming or cumulatively lose its power to produce the desired result or have nasty side effects, (like no teeth!!) .This would worry me the most.

Sml Tue 15-May-01 09:08:00

Tigermoth, glad to hear you had a partially successful trip. I never thought the sweets would be that controversial! Actually, I was in a hurry and didn't have time to make any more suggestions, but sweets are just one (the most guaranteed successful) of a range of things I've used to distract them. We have a brilliant thing called a Travel Scribble, you write on it then erase the writing, which keeps them occupied for ages. It's not just the writing, but playing with the pen, which is attached by a cord, and has a plastic ball on the other end of the cord -fascinating. I also use a range of foods, eg fruit, fruesli bars, sausages, cheese etc, as well as sweets. If it's sweets, I buy something like Campinos (daughter saw the ads on TV!) and dole them out one at a time. I also tell them stories, and we sing songs. I thought the travel tray was a good idea, but tie the toys to it with string. Another brilliant way of keeping them quiet is to make them more comfortable. All children's car seats that I've ever seen are incredibly uncomfortable, and lining them with pillows/cot duvets can make a difference. I also let them go in adult seatbelts in the back if they want to sleep, arranged carefully with duvets and pillows they stay in the seatbelt, but this isn't so good if they're in an active mood.

Marina Tue 15-May-01 09:31:12

Sml's a genius, those things are rock hard plastic with a weedy amount of synthetic padding and then a polyester cover. You can get sheepskins which have slits designed to accommodate a five-point harness. We are already finding our son gets very sweaty in his car-seat (in this balmy English spring) so I think we might get one. Sml, where do you get these scribble boards? Our son loves the small one that is part of his ELC fax machine but I'd like one that didn't come with half a ton of plastic (ignored) around it.
Tigermoth, don't worry about the tray. The one we have is made by the seat manufacturer and designed to have a quick-release mechanism for parents in an emergency. Perhaps you and your son could volunteer to test its toddler-proofing...

Bugsy Tue 15-May-01 09:39:19

Tigermoth, glad to hear that your journey was not too bad. I can understand the horns of your dilema. If we have to do long car journeys with our little chap we try and combine it with lunch and sleep time, otherwise it is torturous.
As far as "doping" your children is concerned, I don't suppose any of us want to harm our children in anyway. However, there are times when a small dose of an over-the-counter medicine seems incredibly tempting to try and help remedy a fairly desperate situation. Some people's lives fall apart with sleep deprivation - quite literally. Many GPs will often recommend a mild anti-histhamine for a child with very bad sleep patterns to try and break a habit. They don't always work as drowsiness is only a side-effect and obviously not all people/children will be receptive. However, I don't think that occasional use of these medicines necessitates being "told off" by other parents. I have never heard of a child being harmed permanently by the use of anti-histhamines (Piriton/phenergen/medi-sed/dozol etc) and if it gives a seriously exhausted parent the benefit of more sleep and therefore the ability to function better is there really a need to condemn the parent's action.

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