FDA Rejects Call For Ban on Over-the Counter Cough & Cold Medicines for Kids

Sick kid blowing noseWith the beginning of the cough and cold season just around the corner, you may be considering purchasing cough and cold medicines for those runny noses and other symptoms.  But, are they safe?  At a public hearing today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rejected calls to ban over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children under the age of 6 years.  Pediatricians and children’s health advocates have sought to take the over-the-counter remedies off the market because there is no evidence that they work in children under the age of 6 and using them risks serious side effects.  The FDA responded that pulling them off the market could result in adults giving children medicines intended for adults, with even more disastrous results.

To be honest, the FDA’s reasoning seems a bit specious to me.  Let’s not take products off the market that don’t work and send 7,000 children a year to hospital emergency rooms experiencing a variety of symptoms, from hives to unsteady walking because their parents might do something stupid.  And many of the side effects may be a result of overdosing too, usually as a result of combining medications to treat different symptoms.  But there are potentially more serious side effects, as the American Academy of Pediatrics points out.  Those side effects, although rare, can include death, convulsions, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness.

You have to wonder about the FDA.  A panel of outside advisers recommended to the FDA last year that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under the age of 6 because they haven’t been shown to work and the risk of serious side effects.  The American Academy of Pediatrics concurs with this recommendation.  Yet, the FDA wants to continue to study the issue.  Remember, the FDA also thinks that bisphenol A is perfectly safe.  (And, as a side note, when the FDA originally set standards for over-the-counter cough and cold medicines 30 years ago, no separate studies for kids were completed.)

What can you do for the common cold?  TLC is always good – lots of rest and fluids.  Honey can soothe a soar throat, particularly when added to warm water and a little lemon.  DO NOT give honey to a child under 1 year of age.  A cool mist humidifier may work.  Also, clearing stuffy noses with a saline solution and a suction bulb is sometimes effective.

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