17 August 2007

Misinformed Parents

From the New York Times' Health Section:
....the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory Wednesday warning parents never to give cough and cold medicines to children under the age of 2 unless instructed to do so by a doctor.

The warning is part of a broad reassessment by the agency of the safety of the popular medicines, which have been blamed for hundreds of adverse reactions and a handful of deaths in children under the age of 2.

"We continue to see adverse effects associated with the medicines because people are not using them properly," said Susan Cruzan, an F.D.A. spokeswoman.

If, despite label warnings, parents continue to use the drugs inappropriately in young children, the agency could take more serious action, like restricting the drugs’ wide availability. Most drugs that have been withdrawn in the past 15 years were taken off the market because doctors and patients failed to heed prominent warnings.

[New York Times, 16 Aug 2007]

It is true every part of the world, not just in the US --- parents in their zealous desire to care for their kids sometimes end up harming them instead.

Late last night, with the heavy rain pouring like crazy, I was on my way home when I received an SMS message from an overly-worried patient in the province telling me that his 10-year-old son is burning up with fever, and that he needed my opinion on what particular antibiotic to buy.

Imagine that. That scenario alone reeked of so many wrong assumptions: [1] who says antibiotics can cure a high fever? [2] did he know I am not a pediatrician? of course he did! yet, he persisted in getting my opinion. [3] assuming I am a pediatrician, did he know that a doctor can't simply prescribe an antibiotic over the phone, or diagnose/manage a patient thru SMS alone? [4] did he know that antibiotics are not supposed to be bought over-the-counter to cure colds and fever?

Why did the anxious father behave like this?

Because I think he wants an easy way out of the problem. Who doesn't? He thinks antibiotics are miracle medications, and while Dr. Emer may not be a pediatrician, he is a doctor, right? He must know what to do. Also, money is always an issue. He thinks by consulting thru SMS, he is saving a lot of money and sparing himself from paying a doctor's professional fee, which I know can be quite astronomical these days.

Well, I felt sorry to burst his bubble of hope, but I told him that in cases like this, nothing can replace the wisdom of a personal consult with a pediatrician. While I sympathize with his predicament, I wanted him to understand that patients, or the patient's parents in this case, CANNOT skip up the most vital part of the medical process --- diagnosis and clinical management by personal consultation. Sure, he might have saved money from sparing his child from a pediatric consult, but if the antibiotic prescribed to be a wrong one, his child might end up sicker and needing more expensive hospitalization. 'No real financial benefits there, right?

Parents need to be informed so they can make informed decisions. They should not rely on false assumptions which can bring more harm and expense in the end.

1 reactions:

may said...

some parents think that antibiotic is THE miracle drug. it is sad, but despite all those health teaching done by nurses, from the barrios to the urban poor, to the hospitals...still, they believe what they want to believe.