Treating Kids in the ER with an Opiate

Published 04/21 2014 05:41PM

Updated 04/21 2014 05:43PM

A new study finds emergency room doctors prescribe codeine to children to treat pain and coughs, despite a recommendation against the practice  by the "American Academy of Pediatrics."

Codeine is an opiate prescribed for cough and pain. The study found it can help some children, but about a third get no relief, while others can build up toxic amounts, causing excessive sleepiness, difficulty breathing, and, in the rarest of cases, death

The FDA warns it can also trigger rare, life-threatening complications after some surgeries. Several medical groups recommend against prescribing codeine to children and say ibuprofen and hydrocodone are better options.
UPMC  Altoona Emergency Department Director Dr. Matthew Bouchard says most ER doctors believe it's best to avoid giving codeine to children and don't prescribe it. He says it's not an effective pain reliever and it has, at the very least, unpleasant side effects. In some patients, it can cause serious problems.

A spokeswoman for Conemaugh Memorial in Johnstown says ER doctors there rarely prescribe codeine to kids. The emergency department at Mount Nittany Medical Center prefers the recommended options of ibuprofen or hydrocodone. And Penn Highlands DuBois says its emergency room doctors don't issue prescriptions.

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