Parents and guardians are being cautioned of the risks of giving prescribed codeine to children after surgeries. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says three children died and another suffered a non-fatal but life-threatening case of respiratory depression, all after being given codeine as a pain reliever after surgeries to remove tonsils and/or adenoids.
The children were given codeine in typical doses after the surgeries, which were performed to relieve obstructive sleep apnea syndrome that blocks the upper airway during sleep.
The FDA advises that health-care providers should use the lowest effective dose of codeine for the shortest amount of time on an as-needed basis.
Parents and guardians who notice signs of an overdose in a child – unusual sleepiness, difficulty being aroused or awakened, confusion or noisy and difficult breathing – should stop giving the child codeine and call 911.
“The FDA is currently conducting a review of adverse event reports and other information to determine if there are additional cases of inadvertent overdose or death in children taking codeine, and if these adverse events occur during treatment of other kinds of pain, such as post-operative pain following other types of surgery or procedures,” said Dr. Bob Rappaport, director of the Division of Anesthesia, Analgesia and Addiction Products in FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “The FDA will update the public when more information is available.”