American Academy of Pediatrics

Ten Things Physicians and Patients Should Question

Released February 21, 2013 (1-5) and March 17, 2014 (6-10); #1, 3, 9 updated July 13, 2016

  1. 1

    Antibiotics should not be used for apparent viral respiratory illnesses (sinusitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis and bronchiolitis).

    Although overall antibiotic prescription rates for children have fallen, they still remain alarmingly high. Unnecessary medication use for viral respiratory illnesses can lead to antibiotic resistance and contributes to higher health care costs and the risks of adverse events.

  2. 2

    Cough and cold medicines should not be prescribed or recommended for respiratory illnesses in children under four years of age.

    Research has shown these products offer little benefit to young children and can have potentially serious side effects. Many cough and cold products for children have more than one ingredient, increasing the chance of accidental overdose if combined with another product.

  3. 3

    Computed tomography (CT) scans are not necessary in the immediate evaluation of minor head injuries; clinical observation/Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN) criteria should be used to determine whether imaging is indicated.

    Minor head injuries occur commonly in children and adolescents. Approximately 50% of children who visit hospital emergency departments with a head injury are given a CT scan, many of which may be unnecessary. Unnecessary exposure to x-rays poses considerable danger to children including increasing the lifetime risk of cancer because a child’s brain tissue is more sensitive to ionizing radiation. Unnecessary CT scans impose undue costs to the health care system. Clinical observation prior to CT decision-making for children with minor head injuries is an effective approach.

  4. 4

    Neuroimaging (CT, MRI) is not necessary in a child with simple febrile seizure.

    CT scanning is associated with radiation exposure that may escalate future cancer risk. MRI also is associated with risks from required sedation and high cost. The literature does not support the use of skull films in the evaluation of a child with a febrile seizure. Clinicians evaluating infants or young children after a simple febrile seizure should direct their attention toward identifying the cause of the child’s fever.

  5. 5

    Computed tomography (CT) scans are not necessary in the routine evaluation of abdominal pain.

    Utilization of CT imaging in the emergency department evaluation of children with abdominal pain is increasing. The increased lifetime risk for cancer due to excess radiation exposure is of special concern given the acute sensitivity of children’s organs. There also is the potential for radiation overdose with inappropriate CT protocols.

  6. 6

    Don’t prescribe high-dose dexamthasone (0.5 mg/kg per day) for the prevention or treatment of bronchopulmonary dysplasia in pre-term infants.

    High-dose dexamethasone (0.5 mg/kg day) does not appear to confer additional therapeutic benefit over lower doses and is not recommended. High doses also have been associated with numerous short- and long-term adverse outcomes, including neurodevelopmental impairment.

  7. 7

    Don’t perform screening panels for food allergies without previous consideration of medical history.

    Ordering screening panels (IgE tests) that test for a variety of food allergens without previous consideration of the medical history is not recommended. Sensitization (a positive test) without clinical allergy is common. For example, about 8% of the population tests positive to peanuts but only approximately 1% are truly allergic and exhibit symptoms upon ingestion. When symptoms suggest a food allergy, tests should be selected based upon a careful medical history.

  8. 8

    Avoid using acid blockers and motility agents such as metoclopramide (generic) for physiologic gastroesophageal reflux (GER) that is effortless, painless, and not affecting growth.  Do not use medication in the so-called “happy-spitter.”

    There is scant evidence that gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is a causative agent in many conditions though reflux may be a common association. There is accumulating evidence that acid-blocking and motility agents such as metoclopramide (generic) are not effective in physiologic GER. Long-term sequelae of infant GER is rare, and there is little evidence that acid blockade reduces these sequelae. The routine performance of upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract radiographic imaging to diagnose GER or gastroesophageal disease (GERD) is not justified. Parents should be counseled that GER is normal in infants and not associated with anything but stained clothes. GER that is associated with poor growth or significant respiratory symptoms should be further evaluated.

  9. 9

    Avoid the use of surveillance cultures for the screening and treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria.

    There is no evidence that surveillance urine cultures or treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria is beneficial. Surveillance cultures are costly and produce both false positive and false negative results. Treatment of asymptomatic bacteriuria is harmful and increases exposure to antibiotics, which is a risk factor for subsequent infections with a resistant organism. This also results in the overall use of antibiotics in the community and may lead to unnecessary imaging.

  10. 10

    Infant home apnea monitors should not be routinely used to prevent sudden death syndrome (SIDS).

    There is no evidence that the use of infant home apnea monitors decreases the incidence of SIDS; however, they might be of value for selected infants at risk for apnea or cardiovascular events after discharge but should not be used routinely.

These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 62,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

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How This List Was Created

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) employed a three-stage process to develop its list. Using the Academy’s varied online, print and social media communication vehicles, the first stage invited leadership of the Academy’s 88 national clinical and health policy-driven committees, councils and sections to submit potential topics via an online survey. The second stage involved expert review and evaluation of the management groups that oversee the functions of the committees, councils and sections. Based on a set of criteria (evidence to document unproven clinical benefit, potential to cause harm, over-prescribed and utilized, and within the purview of pediatrics) a list of more than 100 topics was narrowed down to five. Finally, the list was reviewed and approved by the Academy’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

AAP’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at


  1. Wald ER, Applegate KE, Bordley C, Darrow DH, Glode MP, Marcy SM Nelson CE, Rosenfeld RM, Shaikh N, Smith MJ, Williams PV, Weinberg ST.  Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis and management of acute bacterial sinusitis in children aged 1 to 18 years.  Pediatrics. Jul 2013;132(1):e262-80

    Ralston SL, Lieberthal AS, Meissner HC, Alverson BK, Baley JE, Gadomski AM, Johnson DW, Light MJ, Maraqa NF, Mendonca EA, Phelan KJ, Zorc JJ, Stanko-Lopp D, Brown MA, Nathanson I, Rosenblum E, Sayles III S, Hernandez-Cancio S.  Clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis, management, and prevention of bronchiolitis.  Pediatrics. Nov 2014;134(5):e1474-502.

    Hersh AL, Jackson MA, Hicks LA, and the Committee on Infectious Diseases.  Principles of judicious antibiotic prescribing for upper respiratory tract infections in pediatrics.  Pediatrics. Dec 2013;132(6):1146-1154.

    American Academy of Pediatrics. Antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial stewardship: appropriate and judicious use of antimicrobial agents.  In: Kimberlin DW, Brady MT, Jackson MA, Long SS, eds. Red Book: 2015 Report of the Committee on Infectious Diseases. Elk Grove village, IL: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2015:874-880.

  2. Carr BC. Efficacy, abuse, and toxicity of over-the-counter cough and cold medications in the pediatric population. Currt Opin Pediatrics. 2006 Apr;18(2):184–88.

    Irwin RS, Baumann MH, Bolser DC, Boulet LP, Braman SS, Brightling CE, Brown KK, Canning BJ, Chang AB, Dicpinigaitis PV, Eccles R, Glomb WB, Goldstein LB, Graham LM, Hargreave FE, Kvale PA, Lewis SZ, McCool FD, McCrory DC, Prakash UB, Pratter MR, Rosen MJ, Schulman E, Shannon JJ, Smith Hammond C, Tarlo SM; American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). Diagnosis and management of cough executive summary: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006 Jan;129(1_suppl): 1S–23S.

    Isbister GK, Prior F, Kilham HA. Restricting cough and cold medications in children. J Paediatr Child Health [Internet] 2012 Feb;48(2):91–8.

    Schaeffer MK, Shehab N, Cohen AL, Budnitz DS. Adverse events from cough and cold medication in children. Pediatrics [Internet]. 2008 Apr;121(4):783–87.

    Sharfstein JM, North M, Serwint JR. Over the counter but no longer under the radar – pediatric cough and cold medications. N Eng J Med [Internet].2007 Dec 6;357(23):2321–4.

  3. Dunning J, Batchelor J, Stratford-Smith P, Teece S, Browne J, Sharpin C, Mackway-Jones K. A meta-analysis of variables that predict significant intracranial injury in minor head trauma. Arch Dis Child [Internet]. 2004 Jul;89(7):653–9.

    Kuppermann N, Holmes, JF, Dayan PS, Hoyle JD Jr, Atabaki SM, Holubkov R, Nadel FM, Monroe D, Stanley RM, Borgialli DA, Badawy MK, Schunk JE, Quayle KS, Mahajan P, Lichenstein R, Lillis KA, Tunik MG, Jacobs ES, Callahan JM, Gorelick MH, Glass TF, Lee LK, Bachman MC, Cooper A, Powell EC, Gerardi MJ, Melville KA, Muizelaar JP, Wisner DH, Zuspan SJ, Dean JM, Wootton-Gorges SL; Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network (PECARN). Identification of children at very low-risk of clinically-important brain injuries after head trauma: A prospective cohort study. Lancet [Internet]. 2009 Oct;374(9696):1160–70.

    Nigrovic LE, Schunk JE, Foerster A, Cooper A, Miskin M, Atabaki SM, Hoyle J, Dayan PS, Holmes JF, Kuppermann N, Traumatic Brain Injury Group for the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network. The effect of observation on cranial computed tomography utilization for children after blunt head trauma. Pediatrics [Internet]. 2011 Jun;127(6):1067–1073.

    Ryan ME, Palasis S, Saigal G, Singer AD, Karmazyn B, Dempsey ME, Dillman JR, Dory CE, Garber M, Hayes LL, Iyer RS, Mazzola CA, Raske ME, Rice HE, Rigsby CK, Sierzenski PR, Strouse PJ, Westra SJ, Wooten-Gorges SL, Coley BD. Appropriateness criteria head trauma—child. J Am Coll of Radiol. Oct 2014;11(10):939-47.


  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Subcommittee on Febrile Seizures. Febrile Seizures: Guideline for the neurodiagnostic evaluation of the child with a simple febrile seizure. Pediatrics [Internet]. 2011 Feb;127(2):389–394.

  5. Brenner DJ, Hall EJ. Computed tomography – an increasing risk of radiation exposure. N Eng J Med [Internet]. 2007 Nov 29;357:2277–2284.

    Burr A, Renaud EJ, Manno M, Makris J, Cooley E, DeRoss A, Hirsh M. Glowing in the dark: Time of day as a determinant of radiographic imaging in the evaluation of abdominal pain in children. J Pediatr Surg [Internet]. 2011 Jan;46(1):188–191.

    Kim K, Kim YH, Kim SY, Lee YJ, Kim KP, Lee HS, Ahn S, Kim T, Hwang SS, Song KJ, Kang SB, Kim DW, Park SH, Lee KH. Low-dose abdominal CT for evaluating suspected appendicitis. N Engl J Med [Internet]. 2012 Apr 26;366:1596–1605.

    Stewart K, Olcott W. Jeffrey RB. Sonography for appendicitis: Nonvisualization of the appendix is an indication for active clinical observation rather than direct referral for computed tomography. J Clin Ultrasound [Internet]. 2012 Oct;40(8):455–61.

    Pearce MS, Salotti JA, Little MP, McHugh K, Lee C, Kim KP, Howe NL, Ronckers CM, Rajaraman P, Craft AW, Parker L, Berrington de González A. Radiation exposure from CT scans in childhood and subsequent risk of leukaemia and brain tumours: A retrospective cohort study. Lancet [Internet] 2012 Aug 4;380(9840):499–505.

    Saito JM. Beyond appendicitis: Evaluation and surgical treatment of pediatric acute abdominal pain. Curr Opin Pediatr [Internet]. 2012 Jun;24(3):357–364.

  6. Watterberg KL; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn. Policy statement–postnatal corticosteroids to prevent or treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Pediatrics. 2010 Oct;126(4):800–8.

  7. Sicherer SH, Wood RA; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Allergy and Immunology. Allergy testing in childhood: using allergen-specific IgE tests. Pediatrics. 2012 Jan;129(1):193–7.

  8. Lightdale JR, Gremse DA; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition. Gastroesophageal reflux: management guidance for the pediatrician. Pediatrics. 2013 May;131(5):e1684–95.

  9. Kemper KJ, Avner ED. The case against screening urinalysis for asymptomatic bacteriuria in children. Am J Dis Child. 1992 Mar;146(3):343–6.

    Nicolle LE. Asymptomatic bacteriuria: when to screen and when to treat. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2003 Jun;17(2):367–94.

    Roberts KB, Downs SM, Finnell SM, Hellerstein S, Shortliffe LD, Wald ER, Zerin JM.  American Academy of Pediatrics Subcommittee on Urinary Tract Infection, Steering Committee on Quality Improvement and Management. Urinary tract infection: clinical practice guideline for the diagnosis and management of the initial UTI in febrile infants and children 2 to 24 months. Pediatrics.  Sep 2011;128(3):595–610.

  10. Moon RY; American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: expansion of recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2011 Nov;128(5):1030–9.