The New Child Abuse: Medicating Your Kids

Jeanne Sager
6

pillsEver given your kid a dose of Benadryl to just get them to sleep? In the house? On a plane?

You could be abusing your kid.

That's the new word from the Journal of Pediatrics: A study that looked at off-label uses for children's medicines has declared parents are committing "an under-recognized form and/or component of child maltreatment."

Ouch.

According to the study (quoted on CNN), study author Dr. Shan Yin used information from the National Poison Data System. 

He found that children were most commonly receiving analgesics, stimulants/street drugs, sedatives, hypnotics, antipsychotics, and cough or cold medications -- and out of 1,400 cases between 2000 and 2008, there were 18 deaths.

But beyond the actual on-purpose child abuse cases, Yin said there are all those hazy situations: where parents THINK they're doing something that's OK but they're skating on thin ice.

Let's get it out there: I have never done this to my child. But I also consider myself lucky to have a mom who is in health care -- she has helped me through some pretty tough times.

If every parent had a nurse practitioner with pediatrics expertise on speed dial, I'm willing to bet there would be substantially less drugging of kids.

Which is to say: I totally understand how this could happen.

You haven't slept in a week because your child won't sleep, and what could a little Benadryl do, right? It never hurt them when they had a bug bite, why should it hurt them now?

A lot more than you'd think.

"Benadryl can sometimes have a paradoxical effect and cause kids to get really hyper," warns Dr. Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD, FAAP. The pediatrician behind Pediatrics Now says parents should never use medication that isn't doctor-prescribed or being used for the exact over-the-counter use described on the packaging.

"It’s not a good idea to give medication to small kids for purposes other than what they are intended for due to side effects," O'Keeffe says. "We simply don’t know the correct dose other than for the purpose the medication is intended for."

"What parents are doing is giving themselves a placebo effect but potentially harming their child by giving a medication that could create untoward effects."

Have you ever medicated your child without the doctor's say so?

 

Image via DraconianRain/Flickr

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