MIA: "Refusing pain medication for yourself or your kids does not earn you smug points.”

I was not on drugs when I took this selfie even though my vacant expression may suggest otherwise.





I love drugs. I really do. Always have. Not the illegal kind so much. I was never very good at those and haven’t gone there for many years. I’m an over-the-counter girl. With the odd antibiotic prescription.

I don’t go anywhere these days without a little emergency pack of useful drugs in my handbag. In my emergency pack I have emergency doses of all kinds of wonderful things including Panadol, Nurafen, Naprogesic (which I use to treat the early symptoms of a migraine), Ventolin and Noroxin (an antibiotic for cystitis). Because emergencies do happen. And I like to be prepared.

So frankly, I’ve never understood people who talk about medicine as if it’s a bad thing. You know the ones. They say: “Oh no, I would never give my child Panadol or Nurofen! I don’t believe in it!” And: “We don’t do antibiotics in our house! They are poison!”

These people are often the same ones who mistrust doctors, believe pharmaceutical companies are secretly trying to kill us and would rather give birth in an inflatable plastic pool than in a hospital with trained professionals and world class life-saving medical equipment.

This wholesale rejection of medication and medical advice seems to be part of a bigger and more troubling movement towards a mistrust of experts and it baffles me, truly.

From my first world vantage point, it seems like the ultimate privilege to be smug about the fact you don’t take medication or to take pride in refusing antibiotics for your child. Making that choice doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just makes you very,very lucky to even have a choice. It’s the ultimate luxury.


What parent in the third world, what mother of a child detained in Nauru or a refugee camp, would blithely refuse a safe substance that could ease her child’s suffering or her own? And how does doing that earn you smug points exactly?

So I cheered when I read journalist Claire Harvey’s column yesterday in News Ltd newspapers about this baffling rise in parents (actually mothers, let’s be honest, I’m yet to hear any Dad ever espousing a view on baby Panadol) who take a perverse pride in denying their kids any kind of pharmaceutical, even the over-the-counter kind.

Harvey notes there is a certain type of  mother “who would rather watch her child cry through the pain of a sore throat or teething, comforted only by a smear of ­­pawpaw ointment, than give them a safe, regulator-approved dose of mild painkiller that makes it all better. Often, strangely, this mummy is the same person who, just a few years ago, was dancing with her top off at Beach Haus, having consumed half a disco biscuit and 14 Vodka Cruisers.”

This is true. Legal drugs are not bad. They are certainly not the enemy. Used for the purposes for which they were intended and in moderation, they are safe, reliable and provide relief from painful symptoms that babies and toddlers are often too small to articulate. Eschewing them is not a matter of morality or identity as some would convince themselves that it is, railing against Big Pharma as if by easing their child’s pain or fever they were somehow contributing to the oppression of….well, I’m not exactly sure who.


As Harvey points out: “It’s more socially acceptable in the eastern suburbs to buy vitamins (which don’t work) or homeopathic teething granules (which also don’t work) or even cocaine (which does work but is manufactured by a homicidal Peruvian gangster) than it is to give a child prescribed lifesaving medication.



It’s not that I’m against alternative medicine. My family take Olive Leaf every day during winter and vitamins when required and we use Arnica and Paw Paw ointment to treat the odd scrape and bruise. But I think of all those things as complementary treatments, not substitutes. And it’s certainly not the first thing I reach for when anyone in my family has bad pain, fever or infections.

Pharmaceuticals are not the enemy.

I remember very clearly the first time my first child had Panadol. He was a couple of months old and the baby health nurse had suggested I give it to him before his first round of immunisations. I remember feeling slightly apprehensive about the fact it was the first thing he’d ever tasted that wasn’t breast milk. His face scrunched up accordingly. But he barely cried when the needle slipped in. And he never got a fever.

So I’ve always been confused about what exactly these smug parents are smug ABOUT.

There are no awards for being the one who martyrs through pain – whether it be childbirth or a headache. As an adult though, this is your choice, award or not. But for the children of parents who derive some misplaced sense of superiority from denying their children pain relief or antibiotics, there is no choice. They just have to suck up the pain or the infection or the fever. Which strikes me as a bit unfair. And nothing to be proud of.

Ed’s note: The words in this post are the writer’s own and Mamamia is not currently affiliated with Pandaol or Nurofen.  

Have you noticed people painting legal drugs as somehow ‘bad’? Do you think there’s any harm in giving young children baby Panadol?