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Children's Health

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Overdose Risk for Young Children on Prescription Pain Drugs

Study: About 15% of Narcotic Pain Prescriptions for Children Under Age 3 Contain Too Much Medication

Preventing Drug Overdoses in Infants, Children continued...

Some may have been born addicted to illicit drugs and are given methadone to break the addiction, he says.

These are essentially tiny doses of the same medications that are used in adults, he says.

“The risks to child safety are real and very concerning because if you overdose on certain pain medications like opioids, there is a risk of respiratory suppression and potentially death," he says.

There are times when a higher dose is warranted, he says.

“If a child is on a pain medication for a longer period of time, they develop a physical tolerance and the dose does need to be increased,” he says.

The best way to lower risk for accidental overdose is to schedule a thorough medication review with your pediatrician, he says. “Bring in all of your child’s medication and the dosing devices to make sure your child is getting the right medication in the right amount,” he says.

Steven Shelov, MD, interim chair of pediatrics and the associate chief of staff at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., says that a growing number of children with chronic diseases associated with pain, such as cancer, are being cared for at home and as a result may be receiving prescription narcotics.

“The problem is that pain medication dose is based on weight and age, and there are very broad ranges,” he says. “Weight is often more important than age when it comes to dosing,” he says.

“Parents should be very clear and ask their pediatrician how many milligrams is this per pound of body weight for my child,” he says.

This advice holds for prescription and over-the-counter medications, he says.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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