Are Cold Medicines for Kids Safe?

Recently, there has been controversy over the safety and efficacy of many cough and cold medicines for young children.   Last year, the FDA.issued a public health advisory warning against the use of such medicines for children under two.  In October, manufacturers voluntarily changed the labeling and warnings to state that these medicines should not be given to children under four.

The problem is that studies have shown that cough and cold medicines are not effective for young children, and there are approximately 7,000 pediatric emergency room visits per year as a result of adverse reactions.  Most of these visits are the result of unintentional overdosing — parents guess at the dose, or they don’t realize when two medicines contain the same active ingredient.  Studies are currently being done regarding whether these medicines are effective for children under 12, but they won’t be completed for a couple of years.

So, where does that leave us parents?  First, don’t panic, and don’t necessarily clean out your medicine cabinets.  Here are some guidelines to follow:

  • Do not give adult medicines to children, no matter how much you cut the dose.
  • Strictly follow dosing instructions.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about which medicines to use and in what amounts.
  • Check the “Drug Facts” section of the label to see what the active ingredients are.  For instance, most of the cough and cold medicines contain some type of pain reliever such as acetomitophine (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil), in addition to other ingredients for cough or a stuffy nose.
  • Be very careful when giving more than one medicine at a time — this is where accidental overdoses often occur.  Using the example above, a problem could arise if a parent gives their child Advil and then a multi- symptom medicine containing Advil.
  • Realize that these medicines do nothing to cure or shorten colds and the flu.  They only work on the symptoms.  Make sure your child drinks plenty of liquids and rest.

Check back here — the CSB will be monitoring the current studies and announcements regarding cough and cold medicines

So what are the parents out there doing — using these medicines or not?

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