Child’s Cough Caution: The Common Medication That May Pose Serious Risks

When your child has a persistent cough and is in significant pain, it’s common for doctors to prescribe a medication to alleviate their symptoms. However, research from California warns that one such drug, codeine, can cause life-threatening breathing problems in around 8% of the children who take it.

Despite substantial evidence against using codeine for children, it is still prescribed to a large number of kids each year. This is an alarming concern as it can be prescribed in any clinical setting; therefore, it’s crucial to reduce the prescription of codeine to children in clinics, hospitals, and emergency rooms.

So why is codeine still prescribed, and what are the alternatives? In this article, we’ll discuss the dangers of codeine and examine safer, more effective options that healthcare professionals can recommend.

The Dangers of Codeine in Children

Codeine, an opiate drug, is often prescribed to suppress pain and cough. Though it may seem to offer relief, the drug poses a significant risk to children. Some children may not experience any benefits from taking codeine, while a small portion could face potentially fatal toxicity, particularly in situations that make them more vulnerable to high drug levels, such as after a tonsillectomy.

Alternatives to Codeine

Given the risks associated with codeine, healthcare professionals should consider recommending safer alternatives. Sunitha Kaiser, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital, suggests the following alternatives:

  1. Dark Honey: Honey has been shown to be more effective than over-the-counter cough medicines and is a safer alternative for children. However, do not give honey to children under one year of age as it poses a risk of infant botulism, a rare but serious gastrointestinal condition.

  2. Ibuprofen: This widely available non-prescription pain reliever is usually more effective than codeine for treating pain in children. Make sure to follow the recommended dosing information based on your child’s age and weight.

  3. Hydrocodone: Though an opiate like codeine, hydrocodone is safer and more effective. It’s important to note that hydrocodone should only be considered when other non-opiate alternatives have proven to be ineffective.

Educating Healthcare Professionals and Parents

To limit the prescription of codeine for children, there must be ongoing education for healthcare professionals, especially doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Understanding the dangers of codeine and knowing the safer alternatives is essential to ensure proper care for children in need of pain and cough relief.

Further, parents should be aware of the risks associated with codeine and know which alternative remedies they can administer for their children. Being informed and asking healthcare professionals about safer alternatives will empower parents to advocate for their child’s health and wellbeing.

Final Thoughts

It is crucial to ensure that children receive appropriate medication for their symptoms without potentially life-threatening side effects. While codeine may provide relief for a persistent cough and pain, it’s important to weigh the risks and consider safer, more effective alternatives.

By educating healthcare professionals and parents, we can work together to make more informed decisions about the medications prescribed to our children. In the meantime, if your child is prescribed codeine, speak to your healthcare provider about potential risks and discuss alternative options for pain and cough relief.