Labeled diseases lead parents to overmedicate their children

 
By Sheryl Kay • Published: July 19th, 2013
Category: Health in a Heartbeat
Play

It seems simple enough. You go to the doctor with your child, who is not feeling well. The doctor makes a diagnosis and tells you that medication is not called for and the condition will subside in time. You go home and take no further action, right?

Apparently, many parents think they know better.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that even when physicians assured parents that medicine was not needed, a substantial number still chose to medicate their child.

Researchers spent a year interviewing 175 parents, mostly women averaging about 35 years old, who were waiting with their children in a pediatrician’s clinic. About one fifth of those children had been diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD [gurd].

As part of the study, parents were given hypothetical situations to evaluate. Some of these situations included getting a specific diagnosis and being told that medications would not help the child get better. Other parents were not given a diagnosis or told about any medications that would or would not help their child. Analysis of parents’ answers showed that those who were given a diagnosis ended up being interested in treating their child with drugs even though they were specifically cautioned that medication would not work. Parents who received no label for their child’s malady were far less likely to want to medicate their children than those who were given a diagnosis.

The investigators said the results showed that labels can color how parents or patients react to medical issues, which is important for doctors to understand. And at the same time, patients need to listen more carefully to their physicians’ diagnosis and try to stay clear of self-medicating and demanding pharmaceuticals that are not appropriate.

Sometimes patients just need to be patient.