The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 1.4 million Americans get hospitalized each year for serious side effects or the inability to thrive. That’s 13,000 more hospitalizations than the CDC originally reported and as many as four times more serious.
The new numbers, which were based on a more thorough analysis of hospitalization outcomes, suggest that 15,000 children younger than 18 are hospitalized on a yearly basis for the same reasons.
The new study, published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, makes it clear that aggressive interventions in the pediatric emergency department before and after these hospitalizations are having a dramatic impact.
Who’s getting sick?
About 75 percent of these hospitalizations occur after visits to the doctor or a nurse practitioner for a common sickness. The rest are for life-threatening conditions or side effects of a medication.
The five most common reasons:
1. Medications or antibiotic use
2. Changes in a child’s underlying medical problems
3. Changes in birth or pregnancy
4. Infections or infections of a specific body part
5. Infections of the urinary tract
Medications and antibiotics
Antibiotics are medications taken to treat infections or some other medical condition, and antibiotics are about the most used of all medications in the United States.
About one in three children is exposed to antibiotics before the age of two, two out of three children are exposed in the hospital and half of all children are exposed to antibiotics in the community.
The CDC study indicated that twice as many children take antibiotics every month in the community than in the hospital.
In some cases the hospital use could be a result of emergency care physicians prescribing antibiotics in the emergency department.
Other times, though, the use is a result of good infection control practices by doctors and nurses.
Antibiotics pose an enormous challenge for a young child and with the number of prescriptions growing, our ability to take care of antibiotics is in peril.
This limited supply of antibiotics also means antibiotic resistance is a very serious concern.
Acquired or Harmful E. Coli
E. coli is an organism that can cause serious illness or death. Those most at risk of acquiring the organism include infants, toddlers, children of any age and health care workers.
The number of E. coli cases overall in the United States more than doubled from 2001 to 2015 and there were 57,000 hospitalizations associated with E. coli infections.
Young children are especially vulnerable to E. coli infection.
According to the CDC, the vast majority of these hospitalizations (85 percent) are for shortness of breath or other symptoms.
But other complications include kidney failure, urinary tract infections, gastrointestinal or respiratory infections and sepsis.
Treatment requires antibiotics in the emergency department to attack the cell wall that is intact. The bacteria can then survive on a family of drugs (anti-bodies) that need to be cleared every three to seven days.
The increase in cases and cases of serious antibiotic-resistant infections suggests that there is a need for better infection control practices in the hospital, including prevention and evaluation of their treatment in the emergency department.
To prevent the spread of infections, it is recommended that families and friends of seriously ill patients limit any close contact with them to children and their caregivers.
That’s also the message for parents and caregivers of hospitalized babies and children. Even with good infection control practices, transmission can still occur from an inexperienced caregiver to a child.