A new research study demonstrates that there has been a drop in children being admitted to the ER since drug manufacturers voluntarily withdrew cough and cold medications for infants and young children from the market in 2007, and after labeling changes advised that over-the-counter cough and cold medications were not for use in children under 4.
Manufacturers of over-the-counter oral infant cough and cold medications voluntarily withdrew these products from the market in 2007 amid concerns that the drugs were causing significant numbers of emergency department visits — and in rare cases, infant deaths.
“The change [in ER admissions] was associated with those two events,” said study author Dr. Lee Hamilton, a medical officer in the division of healthcare quality promotion at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We saw that in children under 2 years old, adverse events from cough and cold medications dropped from one in 25 of all emergency department visits for adverse drug events to about one in 40 [such visits],” Hamilton said. “In the 2- to 3-year-olds, adverse events from cough and cold medicines dropped from one in 10 of all emergency department visits for adverse drug events to about one in 15.”
Parents need to be vigilant about where medications are stored. Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director of Round Rock Pediatrics at Scott and White Healthcare, in Texas shared about accidental ingestion of these medications, saying, “ Over-the-counter medications may seem benign to the average person, but they can be dangerous, especially in small children.
The highest number of unsupervised ingestions seen in our study was in 2- to 3-year-olds. These are kids that are beginning to be mobile and may start climbing and getting into more. And, these medications are sweet and good-tasting. This is the age group that parents really need to be monitoring,”
As for the parents who still choose to give their young children cough and cold medications, Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago, said “Many people think these medications are safe because they’re sold over the counter, and many parents may have taken these drugs when they were young, or they may have older children that to whom they gave the medications.
Kids get so many colds; it’s a frustrating problem. The temptation is there to give them over-the-counter medications that promise to make your kid feel better. But, under the age of 4, these medications are no better than giving a placebo and they carry a number of additional risks.
While these medications can ease symptoms in adults and older children, the nasal passages and airways in young children are so small that the slightest bit of inflammation from a cold or respiratory illness makes it harder to breath, and it also makes it harder to make an impact with any treatment.”
Texas pediatrician Berg shared that for children over 1 year of age, a teaspoon of honey several times a day can help quell a cough. “You can put it in tea or in water with lemon juice;” he advised. “The reason that children under 1 year old can’t have honey is a risk of botulism in infants,” he added.
Results of the study were released online Nov. 11 in the journal Pediatrics.