, Volume 235, Issue 8, pp 2471–2477 | Cite as

No side-effects of single intranasal oxytocin administration in middle childhood

  • Martine W. F. T. VerheesEmail author
  • Janne Houben
  • Eva Ceulemans
  • Marian J. Bakermans-Kranenburg
  • Marinus H. van IJzendoorn
  • Guy Bosmans
Original Investigation



Despite growing interest in the (therapeutic) use of intranasal oxytocin administration in children, the potential side-effects of intranasal oxytocin have remained largely unclear to date. The current study is the first double-blind randomized controlled trial to examine side-effects following single administration of oxytocin nasal spray in elementary school-aged children.


One hundred children (8–12 years old) were randomly assigned to receive oxytocin or placebo nasal spray. We assessed side-effects by means of a standardized, drug-specific questionnaire and an open-ended question at two time points: 90 min after nasal spray administration and 24 h after administration.


There were no significant associations between nasal spray condition and total frequency of reported side-effects or reports of specific side-effects. Children and their mothers were unable to correctly guess nasal spray allocation, further supporting that the subjective experience of oxytocin versus placebo nasal spray effects was similar. Moreover, the majority of reported side-effects were classified as mild and ceased within 24 h after the procedure, indicating that the nasal sprays were well tolerated.


In all, this study is the first randomized controlled trial to provide information on the safety of intranasal oxytocin administration in middle childhood. The current study suggests that single administration of intranasal oxytocin is likely safe in elementary school-aged children.


Oxytocin Side-effects Middle childhood Randomized controlled trial Intranasal administration 


Funding information

This work was supported by grants G.0774.15 and G.0757.18 from Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and CREA/12/004 from Research Fund KU Leuven. MJBK was supported by an Advanced Grant from the European Research Council.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Parenting and Special Education Research UnitKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.Quantitative Psychology and Individual Differences Research UnitKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Centre for Child and Family StudiesLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Psychology, Education and Child StudiesErasmus University RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Primary Care Unit, School of Clinical MedicineUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK

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