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Antibiotic side effects send 70,000 children to ER each year, study says

By Allen Cone
Antibiotic side effects send 70,000 children to ER each year, study says
Around 70,000 children go to the emergency room each year because of antibiotic side effects and reactions, according to a study. Photo by wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

Aug. 23 (UPI) -- Because of antibiotic side effects and reactions, there were nearly 70,000 emergency room visits by children yearly according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed nationwide estimates for outpatient antibiotic prescriptions and a sample of hospitals' emergency room visits attributed to antibiotics of children aged 19 and younger. The findings were published Thursday in the Journal of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

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From 2011-15, there was an estimated 69,464 annual visits to the emergency room each year by children, which is 46.2 percent of all ER visits for adverse drug effects credited to systemic medication.

"For parents and other caregivers of children, these findings are a reminder that while antibiotics save lives when used appropriately, antibiotics also can harm children and should only be used when needed," Dr. Maribeth C. Lovegrove, of the Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a press release. "For health care providers, these findings are a reminder that adverse effects from antibiotics are common and can be clinically significant and consequential for pediatric patients."

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In 2011 , 889 antibiotic prescriptions were dispensed from retail pharmacies for every 1,000 children 19 and under, which accounts for nearly 74 million prescriptions.

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In the new study, 86 percent of visits were for allergic reactions, such as a rash, itching or severe swelling beneath the skin.

Among children 2 and younger, antibiotics were identified in 63.9 percent of the ER visits for ADEs. Among children aged 10 to 19 years, it was 32.4 percent

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Amoxicillin was the most commonly implicated antibiotic in adverse drug events among children aged 9 or younger, at 29.9 visits were 10,000 dispensed prescriptions, and sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim was most commonly implicated among children 10-19. at 24.2 per 10,000.

"By considering available data on the immediate risks to individual patients, clinicians, and parents and caregivers, can better weigh the risks and benefits of antibiotic treatment," Lovegrove said.

Although antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications for children, the researchers noted that studies have suggested that nearly a third, if not more, of outpatient pediatric prescriptions for antibiotics are unnecessary.

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The researchers didn't determine which antibiotic prescriptions were unnecessary or inappropriate because data were not available.

Reactions to drugs overall are much higher, researchers said, because only hospital visits were counted and not trips to urgent care, doctor's offices and no care sought. They assumed the worst reactions merited a trip to the ER.

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