Common Emergency Room Practice Puts Kids in Serious Danger

Trips to the emergency room are nightmarish, to say the least. Between the stresses of a sick or injured child and the overwhelming environment of a constantly bustling ER, parents have enough to worry about when they arrive. But it turns out that parents have a whole slew of other things to keep in mind during these trips. A recent study, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, found that ER doctors continue to prescribe codeine to children, despite the potentially harmful effects.


According to the study out of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in San Francisco, codeine is most often being used to treat mild to moderate pain and is also prescribed to suppress coughs. The study found doctors often prescribe it to children with broken bones and those fighting an extremely tough cough. 

However, according to the study, about one-third of children do not actually feel relief after taking the drug, and up to 1 in 12 kids has trouble digesting it, which can cause slowed breathing and possibly fatalities. Yet despite the seemingly dangerous side effects, about 3 percent of children who go to the ER receive codeine. Over the period of the study, between 559,000 to 877,000 children were prescribed the drug each year!

How scary! A fairly common drug that's used hundreds of thousands of times per year could be potentially deadly. Especially when given to a child who cannot break it down properly!

So take note, moms. This study shows us one very important thing: you should always, always ask questions! Granted, they do have medical degrees and practice professionally, but doctors are not always right. Do not be afraid to question the doc's procedures and inquire more about the drugs they're using and the steps they're taking to help your child.

Ultimately, you are your child's greatest advocate. If something doesn't seem right, or you've done your research and know of possible side effects, don't be afraid to start a conversation. The most important thing to do is to have an open line of communication going with a doctor because taking orders blindly could ultimately cause the most harm.

Of course, that doesn't mean that each parent should try to play doctor and completely usurp an actual medical professional's power. But it does mean that moms should be educated on general procedures and their risks. Sure, when a child has to go to the emergency room, don't take a break and say, "Sorry, kiddo. Mom has to research all the possible side effects and symptoms of what you might receive." Emergencies don't happen conveniently.

But it does mean that asking a doctor, "What are the risks with using these medications?" or "Why was my child prescribed this?" could eventually lead to a better understanding of what a child is consuming and you might ultimately offer a better solution.

Do you make it a point to ask the doctor questions?


Image via Harrison Shull/Corbis

Read More >