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Many Parents Don't Know Cold Facts

The above is the title from an article which appeared in the February 3, 2003 issue of WebMD. The article reported on a survey from Children's Hospital, Boston, and was published in the American Academy of Pediatrics February issue of the journal, "Pediatrics." The study noted that in 1998 colds accounted for 1.6 million emergency room visits and 25 million ambulatory visits by both children and adults. They also noted that most colds are caused by viruses and do not require any medical intervention. In spite of this they noted that many families seek medical care for the treatment of colds. The objective of this study was to determine if parental misconceptions about the cause and appropriate treatment of colds may contribute to unnecessary medical services.

The results of the survey revealed some common misconceptions parents have about colds. Although 93% of parents understood that viruses caused colds, 66% of parents also believed that colds were caused by bacteria. Additionally, 53% believed that antibiotics were needed to treat colds. The article noted that both these concepts are false yet they are common beliefs among parents. The survey also revealed that parents said if their child had a cold, 23% of them said they'd go to an emergency room and 60% said they'd go to their doctor's office.

In response the American Academy of Pediatrics issued some common sense advice to parents who have children with colds. That advice included the following:

  • Don't give antibiotics -- they won't work. Neither will most over-the-counter cold medicines.
  • Don't give aspirin to a child with a fever. It can cause an uncommon but serious reaction called Reye's syndrome.
  • The researchers themselves concluded that there are vast misconceptions about the appropriate treatment of colds, and that these misconceptions cause an increase in health service utilization. Their suggestion for correcting this problem was increased specific educational interventions for families. It is their hope that such education may reduce inappropriate antibiotic-seeking behavior and unnecessary medical care for colds.