Five Things Clinicians and Patients Should Question

Released November 30, 2016; Last updated November 30, 2016


Don’t routinely use acid blockers or motility agents for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux in infants.

Medications that decrease acidity in the stomach do not improve infants’ crying or spitting up. These symptoms are common and usually improve on their own, as the child grows up. Studies show that infants who take medications that block stomach acid secretion have more respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Motility agents do not improve symptoms of reflux in infants but they can have side effects on the heart and nervous system, as well as dangerous interactions with other medications. For example, domperidone can increase the QTc interval on the EKG, particularly when used with other medications that affect liver metabolism, and metaclopromide can cause tardive dyskinesia. Infants with gastroeosophageal reflux and poor growth, who have recurrent respiratory problems or who bleed from their gastrointestinal tract, need further evaluation and may need medication. However, most infants will not need them.


Don’t perform screening panels (IgE tests) for food allergies without previous consideration of the pertinent medical history.

Allergy tests for food may be falsely positive when they are performed in children who don’t have a history suggesting a serious (IgE mediated) allergy to that food. These results can lead to avoidance of foods to which a true allergy has not been validly documented. When symptoms suggest a food allergy, a careful history should be completed before ordering specific tests, and these should be selected based on the history. A history that suggests serious allergy to a food may include: (1) combinations of the skin, ocular, respiratory, gastrointestinal and cardiovascular symptoms of anaphylaxis that occur within minutes to hours of eating the specific food, or (2) moderate to severe atopic dermatitis. Testing should be selected based on the history and should not include large screening panels.


Don’t administer psychostimulant medications to preschool children with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but offer parent-administered behavioural therapy.

The treatment of preschool-aged children with ADD should involve evidence-based behavioural therapy first, as it is more effective than psychostimulants in this age group. Preschool-aged children are more sensitive to all psychostimulant side effects, including those associated with growth velocity. Behavioural therapy requires more time and resources, but the benefits are more sustained with minimal adverse events.


Don’t routinely do a throat swab when children present with a sore throat if they have a cough, rhinitis, or hoarseness as they almost certainly have viral pharyngitis.

When children with a sore throat present symptoms strongly suggestive of viral illness, such as a runny nose (rhinorrhea), cough or a hoarse voice, a throat swab is unlikely to change management, as these children seldom have ‘Strep Throat’ as the cause of their sore throat.


Don’t recommend the use of cough and cold remedies in children under six years of age.

Cough and cold remedies sold over the counter often contain combinations of several medications. Research shows that they are not effective when given to children. They can, however, cause serious harmful effects, including accidental overdose, particularly when combined with other medications. For these reasons, since 2008, Health Canada has advised against their use in children less than six years of age.

How the list was created

The Canadian Paediatric Society (CPS) established its Choosing Wisely Canada list through the leadership of a 7-member task force. CPS Committee Chairs and Section Presidents were consulted and sought input from committee and section executive members about items they felt should be included in the campaign. They were made aware of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ list as well as the Society of Hospital Medicine’s Pediatric Hospital Medicine list, published through the American Choosing Wisely® campaign. Current CPS statements were also considered during list development. Committees’ and sections’ submissions were reviewed by the task force. Using Delphi methodology, the task force established a list of 7 topics that were submitted to the CPS Board, including some recommendations that were previously made by other medical associations or societies. Principles used to inform decision-making were the following: a) is lack of effectiveness of the test, intervention or treatment well supported by evidence; b) is there evidence of harm resulting from unnecessary use of the test, intervention or treatment; c) is the test, intervention or treatment used commonly by physicians and health care workers treating children across Canada. The list was reviewed by the CPS Board and Executive and was narrowed down to five items.



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