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ER Nurses' Advice Varies Wildly

A new study from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque found that different emergency room nurses gave widely varying advice over the telephone about what to do when presented with several mock cases of respiratory illness in children. Health Correspondent Dr. Dave Hnida of CBS News Station KCNC-TV in Denver reports.

The nurses were asked to evaluate symptoms of choking, colds, cough, croup, and wheezing, then determine whether the case was a life-threatening immune response, an asthma attack, a breath-holding spell, or choking.

Finally, the nurses were asked to tell parents whether they should call 911, come into the emergency room immediately, come to the ER within 24-48 hours, or take care of the child at home.

The answers given were disturbingly different, the researchers said in the study, published in the April issue of the Annals of Emergency Medicine. For example, the advice for a cough ranged from 'seek immediate attention' to 'stay home and see if it gets worse.'

If you think your child requires emergency attention, call 911, Dr. Hnida advises. If the situation is less urgent, try calling your own doctor. He knows you and your family and your medical history, and therefore is better qualified to offer advice over the phone. If you are in doubt and your doctor is not available, take your child to the emergency room, Dr. Hnida says.

Reported By Dr. Dave Hnida

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