'Renegade' doctors have been advising parents to use combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen for years

Calpol is a popular form of paracetemol for children

Calpol is a popular form of paracetemol for children

For many years GPs have been advising parents to use a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen for treating a child's high fever.

This goes against the current stern warning from NICE that parents should give their children only one medicine.

But as many families will know, when you've got a child with a high temperature, or blisteringly painful earache, sometimes paracetamol is not enough.

For this reason, some parents prefer using ibuprofen, which is certainly a better painkiller, and is as good at reducing a fever.

But even better is to give the child both drugs; the medicines complement each other - they work on different parts of the brain - with great effect.

Now we've had official sanction for our 'renegade' advice; a study published on the British Medical Journal's website has found that the combined used of paracetamol and ibuprofen reduces fever more quickly.

Quite rightly, the doctors who led the study have called for a change in official guidelines to reflect the findings.

The question is whether NICE will act fast enough on this one --on previous form, one suspects not.

Until it does, my suggestion is that parents consider alternating the drugs for best effect.

Each takes about a half an hour to 'kick in', and then starts to wear off after a couple of hours - so start with ibuprofen, which the study shows is the best to give first, followed two hours later by paracetamol, then two hours after that, the ibuprofen again.

Popular brands of ibuprofen include Junior Nurofen; for paracetemol, try Calpol.

Some fevers and pain won't need this double hit treatment --you have to use your parental instinct on this, but stick carefully to the doseage on the label. (And to make sure you do alternate the drugs, consider putting the next drug to use on the shelf in front of the one you've just given).

Do you need to stick to child formulations? In theory, you can give a child a reduced dose of an adult medicine, such as a painkiller.

After all, this is what happens in hospital.

However, hospital doctors make very precise calculations on the doseage according to the child's weight, and for any parent to do this could be extremely dangerous.

The best advice is to stick to child formulations and always read the label carefully for the correct dose.

And remember, babies under three months should not be given either paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Dr Scurr is one of the country's leading GPs. He answers your questions on health every Tuesday in the Mail's Good Health.

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