Physicians must carefully consider the appropriate use of antipyretic drugs in children. Despite the ubiquitous presence of acetaminophen and acetylsalicylic acid in the home, there are many factors to weigh prior to their use. The following is a discussion of these factors: efficacy versus toxicity, known effects versus uncertain complications of drug therapy. Acetaminophen and acetylsalicylic acid have equivalent antipyretic effects. Acetylsalicylic acid is clearly the better anti-inflammatory drug. Therapeutic misadventures with both drugs have resulted in childhood fatalities. Since these medications are not restricted to prescription order by a physician, instructions as to their safe and appropriate use should become part of ‘normal child’ counselling by physicians to all parents.

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