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Parents More Likely to Use Abx for 'Pink Eye' vs 'Eye Infection'

Use of label 'pink eye' linked to increased intent to use antibiotics despite their ineffectiveness

FRIDAY, Aug. 28, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Use of the label "pink eye" versus "eye infection" is associated with increased parent intent to use antibiotics despite parents being informed about antibiotics' ineffectiveness for treating symptoms, according to a study published online Aug. 20 in Clinical Pediatrics.

Laura D. Scherer, Ph.D., from the University of Missouri in Columbia, and colleagues examined the effect of the label "pink eye" on parents' intent to use antibiotics and perceived contagiousness. Parents responded to a clinical vignette that described a child with symptoms consistent with acute viral conjunctivitis. The physician in the vignette described the symptoms with the term "pink eye" or "eye infection" and either told parents that antibiotics are likely ineffective for treating symptoms or did not discuss antibiotic effectiveness.

The researchers found that parents remained interested in antibiotics despite being informed about their ineffectiveness when the symptoms were referred to as "pink eye." Information about antibiotic effectiveness significantly reduced interest when the symptoms were referred to as "eye infection" (P < 0.001). Compared with parents who received the "eye infection" label, those who received the "pink eye" label thought symptoms were more contagious and were less likely to believe their child could go to child care (P = 0.38).

"When discussing management of conjunctivitis with parents, physicians should be aware of the effect of the term 'pink eye'" on parents' expectations for treatment and their understanding of the condition," the authors write.

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