Though the Chinese government has a history of censoring anything that would cast the country in a negative light, even they have to acknowledge those crises that become too large to ignore. Recently, a Public Service Announcement that ran on China’s state-run television CCTV highlighted the dangers of giving improper medication to children. The announcement, which went viral in China, centered around the story of 5-year-old Fu Xinuo, who lost her hearing after taking improper medicine for a fever three years ago. Fu, speaking in sign language, recounted stories her parents told her when she was young, including how she used to “jump up and down” when hearing music. After her hearing began to disappear following the botched treatment for a fever, she explained that “I knew there were sounds around me. I tried very hard to listen, but I just couldn’t hear anything. Mom, I’m scared.” As she continues, she tears up expressing her anxiety and anguish at being unable to communicate with her peers and her parents.
The ad then revealed the shocking statistic that around 30,000 children in China go deaf every year due to being given medicine unsuitable for children. An investigation by the Chinese Pharmaceutical Association found that 70% of students at deaf school in China were the victims of improper medical care as young children, making it the chief cause of child deafness in the country. Many more children suffer severe kidney and liver damage due to such mistakes while 7,000 children die annually from the improper use of medicine.
It is surprising, frankly, that the Chinese government chose to create this ad considering they hold much of the blame for this situation. China has no laws or supervising agencies regulating medication for children. Of the 6,020 medications available to treat children in China, only 45 are actually suitable for children. Much of that medicine is also improperly labeled. “Most of the instructions on medicine states to use half of the dose or ‘one’s own discretion’ on deciding the amount to be given to children,” said Chen Yunbin, director of the pediatric division at the Guandong Medical Doctor Association. “‘One’s own discretion means that the drugs have not gone through medical trials. This is unsafe and there is a high possibility of children having allergic reactions.”
Parents are also to blame as many are uneducated about the proper use of medications. Many end up giving their children substances intended for adults that are harmful to children. For example, norfloxacin pulls are a common treatment of diarrhea in adults, but parents also buy it to treat children as it is available over-the-counter and cheap. However, norfloxacin at adult doses poisons the kidneys and induces anemia in children. In addition, antibiotics are over-prescribed and overused as many are available over-the-counter and are commonly given to children, by doctors and concerned parents alike, in the case of respiratory infections, cough, or fever. Though these conditions are often caused by viruses, antibiotics are used regardless. Overexposure to antibiotics in children can lead to auditory nerve disorders, deafness, dizziness, and other issues. Though this PSA will help to raise awareness, China needs to do to much, much more to get this tragic situation under control.