Why are the Brits so anal about suppositories?

This post may affect those with a sensitive disposition as it is about bums, and putting things up them. And no, not in a kinky way. People often ask me about the differences between France and the UK, and whilst the countries are not the same there’s not necessarily a lot that makes separates them. However, when it comes to medicine, and more precisely, suppositories, then they’re a world away.

I first lived in France from October 1996 to February 1997, I was at Nice university as part of my degree in French and Spanish, and towards the second part of my stay I had my first French boyfriend. I noticed huge differences along with lots of little ones, in comparison to my English boyfriends (why do so many French men insist on wearing jumpers over their shoulders?!?). But the biggest shocker was when I was in his apartment one day, and I saw on the table, bold as brass, a packet of suppositories. I was 20, and I was shocked! Was he some kind of sexual deviant?

Fast forward 10 years to 2006 when I had moved to France, married a (different) Frenchman, become mum to a half French half English baby girl, and this Brit no longer batted an eyelid at putting things in bums! When L was born we were taught by the French hospital to take her temperature daily (!) after the bath, using a rectal thermometer. Calpol doesn’t exist in France, instead they give paracetamol under the name “Doliprane” which comes either as a syrup, given via a syringe based on weight rather than age, or as suppositories.

Doliprane suppository for a 3-8kg baby (my finger next to it for scale)

Doliprane suppository for a 3-8kg baby (my finger next to it for scale)

And, I have a confession to make. I LOVE suppositories (for babies). They’re not messy syrups. They are lightweight and take no space, so are easy to carry around in a changing bag, or to take on nights or weekends away. They’re easy to administer during a nappy change. They’re incredibly quick to take effect. Better still, if your child has a high temperature, yet is throwing up, you pop in a suppository, the temperature comes down and there’s no issue of them vomiting it back. How on earth can you do this in the UK where you can’t get suppositories for babies?

I once mentioned at work in the UK that I gave my daughter suppositories when she was ill, and my colleagues (who are parents) were aghast. I’ve only needed to give C paracetamol in the UK a handful of times, but each time it’s been a suppository, so when I had to give Calpol to the baby I childmind the other day it was a real eye-opener.

Seriously, Calpol? I’m supposed to attempt to pour your syrupy medicine onto a spoon, and get a poorly baby, with a high temperature, to swallow it? What a bloody nightmare! So this is my Friday’s rant for the week. Why do Brits have such an issue with suppositories? They are valid medicine, why are they so hard to get in the UK? I even use them myself sometimes – there’s a fantastic sore throat cure that comes in suppository form in France that works ridiculously quickly. Why wouldn’t you, if it’s going to make you better, faster?

Oh well, until things change in the UK I’ll be stocking up in French pharmacies for the foreseeable.

I am linking up with Mummy Barrow’s Ranty Friday for this post. Click on the badge below to see what others are ranting about today, or join in with your own rant.



43 Responses

  1. Erica Price says:

    I’ve never heard of this, but I agree it would be easier to administer often. No need for sugar and sweeteners either.
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It’s such a shame you can’t get them in the UK as it makes life so much easier.

  2. Kara says:

    That’s a genius idea – my 5 year old has been poorly overnight and has thrown up his medicine each time and as babies administering calpol is a nightmare.
    I’ve never heard of paracetamol in suppository form for babies – want to get some too now

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It’s so hard to find over here, I stock up on it when we go to France (where it costs next to nothing). It’s magic, especially for little ones still in nappies as you can pop them in easily when doing a nappy change.

  3. Mary Keynko says:

    My daughter had paracetamol suppositories when she was little – easiest way ever to get medicine into them! Don’t use a spoon – waste of time and medicine – ask the chemist for an oral syringe – much better to get them to suck it like a straw and you loose way less calpol!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I love suppositories – fab invention for getting medicine into kids! I’ve got an oral syringe but couldn’t face trying to track it down when I needed to give the baby the Calpol, I was astounded that it came with a spoon not a syringe!

  4. Much as I’m a Francophile I must confess I am not a fan of suppositories. I had to use them on Ma Puce once when she was a small toddler with constipation and I’ve had the misfortune to have had them after the birth of Ma Puce. As for the idea of taking temperature by sticking a thermometer up my daughter’s backside. Noooooo, I’m way too British for all that!!!!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It does take some getting used to, when I first moved to France I found it all very strange. It’s funny how a country so close to ours can have such a different culture sometimes.

  5. Mummy Barrow says:

    You are so right. We are really squeamish about things like that.

    It’s like colonic irrigation and enemas. Nobody every really wants to talk about them do they?
    Mummy Barrow recently posted…Lisa Faulkner — The Way I Cook — A reviewMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      The Brits don’t really like talking about things up their bums, which is strange as we’ll talk/joke about most things.

  6. I am a big fan of suppositories. We lived for 5 years in Poland and it is simply the way there. And as you say, the reaction time or rather the speed with which a raging temperature comes down is amazing. Why the Brits are so anal about this, I do not know. My youngest son had febrile convulsions and this was by fast the most effective, efficient means to get his temperature down fast so as to avoid another oonvulsion. I wish the Brits would lighten up a bit. And yes, I am a Brit but have lived in Europe for 10 years so am more Euro than Brit! xx
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It is such a shame as they’re such a useful form of administering medicine. Maybe one day…

  7. They are available in the UK for babies and toddlers but you get them on prescription (generally) so there’s a cost implication here. The Cheetah Keeper had them in GOSH when he had his tonsils out which he hated but it worked so well. I guess it’s a question of education and opening a few minds!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I really miss just being able to go to my local pharmacy and getting them over the counter for a couple of Euro. Now I have to plan my stock when we go to France!

  8. I use an oral syringe to shoot medicine down my boys’ throats. Much less messy, and they’re used to it. Have to admit to feeling a bit squeamish about suppositories. How far do you have to insert it? Doesn’t it fall out? But I suppose I’m just ignorant because I’ve never tried one before.
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’ve done the oral syringe thing as well but I’ve found suppositories to be the best/most effective by far. If you’ve wiped a baby’s bum and applied nappy cream to that area then I don’t think it’s any more shocking/disgusting. You push it in a bit, not much, and it kind of gets sucked in. There’s always the risk they might push it back out but it doesn’t happen often.

  9. Jayne says:

    I’m a huge fan of suppositories for babies – my daughter suffered with chronic constipation when she was tiny. She’d attempt to pass a bowel movement, realise it was painful and then retain everything for days until she could retain no more, and pass something resembling a cannon ball which would literally split her open. Once our G.P. prescribed glycerin suppositories, everything improved massively and Sausage was able to have the help she needed – oral glycerin and things like prunes made no difference.

    However, at Sausage’s one year check, I asked the Health Visitor if she had any tips for constipation and when she found out I was using suppositories she went mad, told me I was cruel for putting something up my daughter’s bum and even insinuated that if we ever had to have Sausage examined at hospital, they may accuse me of child abuse!

    I made a huge complaint about her, and have never seen a health visitor since, and now I’m pregnant with my second, I’d have no hesitation in using suppositories again, should we need to. Great post!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m shocked by the health visitor saying that! I’m so glad they worked out for you, and good luck using them with number 2 – if only we could find them more easily over here.

  10. Karen says:

    It’s utter madness that we are so “anal” about it. They’re cheap, work quickly, and are far safer than oral meds, because you don’t have to work out a dosage and like you say, they are easy to administer. I actually begged my GP for a prescription for them, when Em had Hand, Foot and Mouth, as a toddler, because she simply would not swallow anything, and getting oral meds into her was a non starter. The pharmacist got all huffy about it, but gave them to me. Now the kids are bigger, oral stuff is fine, but I used to get a friend to bring suppositories back from France for us, when she travelled, 3x a year, when my kids were babies!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It’s interesting that many nurses I know seem to think they’re perfectly normal, they just make sense to me.

  11. I remember being totally freaked out the first time I was prescribed them (in France) but yes, I can so see the benefits with young children – I tried to get antibiotics into my 5 month old once – that was an incredibly stressful experience!
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    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I can imagine that being quite strange if you’re not prepared! I wouldn’t have handled having them prescribed to me pre-babies I think. It’s just so much easier to get medicine into small children/babies this way though.

  12. Kerry says:

    I came across suppositories the first time in Spain my son who was 4 had bronchitis… The hospital were amazing- had antibiotics and a couple of days treatment with the ventolin machine. One of things she gave was suppositories for the cough…. Oh my god
    … He hardly coughed and got better within 3 days. In UK it would have been drawn out for couple of weeks.

    My other son is 6 with Autism. Now all these do gooders and pharmacists have no idea what a nightmare it is he can smell medicine ( calpol or antibiotics ) in drinks food and often threw up even if we gave to his brother in the same room. He would throw up if forced down and if tried to hide he would then stop drinking totally and make everything far worse and ended up in hospital twice with dehydration.

    Paracetomol suppositories are fantastic and so easy to do.

    I’m now looking into whether you can get antibiotics or other meds this way. Interesting re sore throat meds as I definately saw how the cough one worked. Maybe I should take a trip to France?!?!?

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Instead of doing a booze cruise to Calais maybe it should be a meds trip to stock up on suppositories?!? The French supply an awful lot of medication in suppository format so it’s worth asking. I can’t imagine the pain it must be trying to get medicine into a child that is refusing so adamantly. Maybe if enough of us ask for suppositories in the UK then we might get them?

  13. Alex says:

    I get the Doliprane suppositories from frenchclick.co.uk – a bit pricier than France, but oh man are they a lifesaver!

  14. Rebecca says:

    Our baby girl just will not take paracetamol orally – we have tried everything to the point of almost waterboarding her with the stuff and it’s just distressing for both her & us.
    And then we discovered suppositories and our lives changed. Now when she’s in pain or has a fever within the time it takes to change her nappy she’s feeling better with no distress!! Amazing!
    However the catch is that they cost £25 for 10 suppositories – £25!!!
    Anyway we’re going to France on holiday in a few days and I plan to stock up.
    Do you know if pharmacies have a limit for how much paracetamol they can sell you in one transaction? Will we be able to get multiple boxes from one store or have to drive around to multiple shops?

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Sorry I didn’t reply in time for your holiday, I’ve been switching off a lot this summer. You can usually buy as much as you want (and we tend to stock up a lot), I hope you managed to get a whole load to bring back!

  15. Tom says:

    In South Africa, suppositories are routinely given for babies and toddlers, not just paracetamol but also mefenamic acid (brand Ponsten/Ponstal) which is very effective in conjunction. Some attitudes to health in the UK really dumbfound me, it’s normal to leave kids to suffer lots of conditions when perfectly routine treatments are the norm in other countries. Currently in the UK, my GP refuses to prescribe paracetamol suppositories and wherever I have found it the price is extortionate!

    Thanks to the commenter who suggested frenchclick.co.uk!

    • Tom says:

      Also, paracetamol is dosed by body weight (15mg per kg), yet everyone in the UK doses by age?? Makes no sense to me.

      • Franglaise Mummy says:

        It never ceases to amaze me and the whole paracetamol by age is ridiculous! Especially as my kids tend to be tiny for their age.

  16. Seems the USA is starting to catch on but we’re still squeamish about it… I found suppository applicators really help. I have Crohn’s and use them myself from Sephure and I guess they’re starting to make kid size ones. Too bad my kids are grown up, it would’ve helped when my little girl was always constipated as a toddler.

  17. Milana says:

    Wow! I just went online early morning to check why there are no suppositories in UK and found this! I grew up in Jordan (where they are the things parents use.. My mom even used them for us when we were kids and hey no complaints and I turned out just fine lol no abuse as the health visitor in a comment implied!) … when my kids were growing up spent 13 years in Dubai where they are what is used… I never knew there was a country that don’t use them… Life is terrible with a toddler and a baby and having to give them sugary syrup :/ … I just ordered mine from the mentioned French website…. Thanks for that comment and thank you for the article!

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      The nightmare of trying to give sugary syrup to a little one who is ill!!! So much faster, easier and effective to use suppositories. Maybe one day they’ll become more common…

  18. Suleina says:

    Can I ask which sore throat cure in form of suppository u are referring to?? Just like u I’m a French mummy living in England having to stock up on doliprane for my little boy as he hates calpol and spits it all out! He’s prone to coughing a lot too when he gets ill so I give him something called Prospan for it, but if there’s something else you recommend for cough/sore throat, that would be helpful! Thanks 🙂

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Sorry for the very slow reply! Life got a bit busy there. It’s “Biquinol” and there’s an adult version and a kids one. It only works for sore throats though, not coughs. But it works so well 🙂 Good luck! I’m now living in Mauritius and can get suppositories again – huzzah!!!

  19. Ruth says:

    On my sixth round of IVF so know suppositories a bit better than I would like! Bought the paracetamol ones for my daughter for £25 in UK! Pharmacist gave me a blank look when I asked for them, shocked such a thing existed in her cupboards!

    I too would love to know the sore throat cure – and if anyone knows the cough cure as well?!

    I only wish you could get antibiotic suppositories would make life a lot easier LO has just turned two and I think about to get her third course of antibiotics for a sore throat. I am wondering if they are not working because I can’t get them down properly.

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      The sore throat ones are called “Biquinol” and you can get a kids version of it too. Can you get anyone to post them to you from France? They are so cheap and easily available there. Could you try asking for antibiotics in suppository format from your GP? My mum is a nurse and is well aware that suppositories are the best way to get medicine into us, so surely a doctor should know that too…

  20. Chris says:

    Just for info – you can get suppositories in the U.K. but you’ve got to ask the pharmacist and they’ll probably have to order in (usually later that day or at worst the next day). They’re pricey though – £25 for 10 125mg ones but worth every penny when temperatures strike! They are available without prescription over the counter so don’t let them fob you off if they seem reluctant. We’ve given both our kids paracetamol this way and wouldn’t go back to calpol for an under-3 for anything!

  21. Meghan Kearey says:

    So rather than try to soothe a little one enough to administer “sugary syrupy” oral medicine you would rather shove a bullet shaped item up your childs bum???

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