Do we medicate many of our children at our own risk? Do we make decisions that only a physician should make? The figures say yes. Andrea Masía de Barbieri, pediatrician at CAP CUNIT (from the National Institute of Health), assures that she frequently sees parents who medicate their children, always believing that they do the best, but because someone recommended it.
For the doctor, the Spanish of this frenetic world tend to self-medicate for simple reasons: lack of time to go to the doctor, proximity and accessibility of pharmaceutical or para-pharmacy services, knowledge acquired through family, friends or neighbors who tell us what take, how much and how. Although, he adds, “this popular wisdom has been displaced by the Internet goddess who informs us of everything and everyone equally.”
The data does not lie. According to the 2006 National Health Survey, the percentage of people who self-medicated was 14.4%, a fairly stable figure since in 93 it was 11.9%. In those surveys, for example, data was also provided such as self-medication is twice as frequent in high socio-economic levels and, in the university population, as well as in the female sex.
The data about the increase in drug consumption in Spain are alarming. The doctor shows her concern: «we have gone, according to the data of the National Health Survey, from 37.5% in 1987 to 65.7% in 2006, it is more marked in men than in women and produces in all age groups ». It is evident, he adds, that “we are over medicalized, over informed about stressors, we are part of a society where we need to be well at all costs and where every day there are new products for everything, from losing weight or treating a foot injury or hair loss. Absolutely everything has a drug and we can access it without leaving home since almost everything can be bought online. ”
It is an unquestionable fact: Parents are increasingly more informed, in fact perhaps we live one on information and not always of quality. Information comes through many channels: television, radio, internet, pharmacies, billboards. For Dr. Masiá this has a purpose: «to sell a product to sleep, to calm pain, to whet the appetite, to grow healthy and strong, and the downside of all this is that all this advertising is not real; that is, the child does not necessarily have to take the vitamins from television advertising to grow up healthy and strong, one thing is not conditioned on the other, but this is not known to the parents. What they want is to give everything to their child, buy everything that is necessary for their health and that nothing is missing, act as good parents, but, in that sense,
The pediatrician acknowledges that «parents go through several stages in self-medication: initially they do not self-medicate anything. They come every time you have a fever or every time you have diarrhea or vomiting or complain about something. The guidelines are practically always the same, and they leave the consultation with the advice on how to ease pain or lower the fever, or clear the nose of mucus or rehydrate in an episode of diarrhea.
From there and in the following episodes they gain confidence, learn the symptoms and act with more or less fear, but they do so.
What about commonly used drugs? That is, with those used to lower the fever? Andrea Masiá is clear: «There are basic drugs such as pain relievers or antipyretics that parents need to know about use, dosage according to weight, frequency of administration, and that I personally think they should use when they see fit. The problem is when they leave the consultation without any medication and we only offer them advice, guidelines for action, warning signs, at that moment there is a bit of confusion because the responsibility to recognize signs, to monitor and take charge, and all this without administering any syrup, it generates fear, and that often causes a visit to pharmacies where, for me personally, there is the great problem of the free sale of drugs that are potentially dangerous, such as
What to do to avoid, as far as possible, that parents act with their heads? The pediatrician bets because “it is fundamental and, especially for pediatricians who work in primary care, to take advantage of well-child check-up visits to talk about the possible pathologies that may come and how to deal with them, to talk about how to deal with a fever , to a pain, to a cough, how to treat these episodes, what is advised and what is not, in order to talk about health, resolve doubts, banish myths and fears ».
Medicate children to sleep
If there is one thing that most drives a human being insane, it is not being able to sleep. In fact, lack of sleep generates aggressiveness, anger and, above all, deteriorates health. But it is evident that it is a step that must be passed when you have children, that you cannot sleep like before, at least in one season.
For Masiá de Barbieri, the consolidation of the sleep rhythm goes through many stages and each child experiences them differently, which is why there are many who do not reach an adequate sleep rhythm until after 5 years. “Normally,” he adds, “the infant has many nighttime awakenings, since the sleep-wake cycle does not have it incorporated, he does not know when it is night or when it is day, regardless of whether we turn off the light or play relaxing music, since It is about an immaturity at the brain level that will be acquired over time, and this time will be different for each child, so parents at this stage have to be patient and adapt to it ”. At this point the doctor is blunt:
Antibiotics like candy
Antibiotics are the most consumed drugs after painkillers and Spain continues to be one of the developed countries with the highest consumption of antibiotics per inhabitant. It is estimated that approximately 24 individuals for every 1,000 inhabitants are under treatment daily.
The doctor is convinced that there is a false belief that these are safe, reliable and effective drugs, they attribute practically miraculous properties to them. It makes them deserving of all the confidence to treat all pathologies that present with fever, whether they are deserving of them or not. “We are guilty both the medical community and pharmacists and patients.”
This incorrect or indiscriminate use of antibiotics has led to an increase in the prevalence of bacterial resistance, which has led to antibiotic therapy into a true global crisis. In this sense, in Spain we have an increasing number of resistant strains of bacteria responsible for community infectious diseases such as Pneumococcus, Salmonella, E coli, among others. Resistant bacteria are more aggressive bacteria, so the treatment guidelines and the evolution of infectious pathology have changed a lot in recent years.