Leave a Comment

Getting sick really sucks as an adult, but when you're a kid, it's always a million times worse. I think everyone has memories of that one illness they were always catching and the disgusting taste of fake grape flavoring in their cough syrup. Kids tend to suffer a lot more when they fall ill, even when it's only a minor bug, but it seems absurd to give them medicine that is potentially dangerous just because of potential benefits. A recent study found that unfortunately doctors have been doing just that.

According to CBS News, the powerful painkiller codeine has been prescribed to children more than half a million times a year by emergency room doctors. A report issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics states that despite national guidelines against giving the drug to kids, doctors have been ignoring the warning. Over a ten year period, the drug has been given out 3% of the time during ER cases involving children, but with 25 million little ones being treated by urgent care physicians, it's way too many children potentially taking codeine.

Dr. Samantha Kaiser, pediatrics professor at University of California San Francisco, was the lead author of the study. She says that there are plenty of other options to treat sickness and pain in children, like dark honey, ibuprofen or other higher strength drugs that are still safe for tiny bodies. Codeine is especially dangerous because your liver turns it into morphine to help cope with pain. A child's liver is likely to process it too quickly, which can cause them to stop breathing and in some cases, die.

There are several factors the research team believes may be leading to so many prescriptions being written. Many hospitals in the United States are staffed by doctors for adults, who are used to recommending codeine for coughs and colds. It's not very effective for grown ups, either, but isn't going to cause respiratory suppression or death in the majority of cases. These doctors are treating kids as adults. The researchers think that parents may also play a factor in codeine prescriptions, too. Sometimes you're at the ER for six to eight hours, only to be told your little one has a cold and needs rest or over the counter medicine. They may push for a prescription and ultimately get one for codeine.

The bottom line is that powerful drugs just aren't right for children in most cases, and if there are guidelines in place to protect kids they need to be followed. As an aunt to three little munchkins, I know I want to trust that doctors are giving them the right medicine that's safe. Maybe studies like this will put more pressure on physicians to follow the rules, even if they're in a rush. Because nobody wants to see kids dying from something that is completely preventable.