Cough, Cold Medications Pose Danger When Given to Children

Cough, Cold Medications Pose Danger When Given to Children

Jan 15, 2007 5:00 PM

Utah Poison Control Center received 2,250 calls about exposures in 2006



SALT LAKE CITY --Adverse effects and overdoses associated with cough and cold preparations account for about 5 percent of calls to the Utah Poison Control Center (UPCC) and are more common in the winter months.

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), noted an estimated 1,519 children age 2 and younger were treated in U.S. emergency departments for adverse events, including overdoses, associated with cough and cold medications. This report also identified deaths of three infants 6 months and younger in 2005, for which cough and cold medications were determined to be the underlying cause of death.

In 2006, the UPCC responded to 2,250 calls regarding exposures to cough and cold preparations, 68 percent involving children less than 6 years old and 50 involving children 6 months or younger. Cough and cold exposures are common in children for several reasons: During the cold and flu season, parents often leave the product out to remember to give it to sick family members. Many cough and cold preparations are brightly colored and flavored, which is enticing to small children.

In addition, a myriad of cough and cold preparations are available on the market targeted for different symptoms. Many of these products have the same or similar ingredients. If more than one product is administered to a child or adult, it increases the likelihood of adverse effects.

The majority of cough and cold preparations are not recommended for children less than 6 years of age unless under the advice of a primary care provider. The majority of cough and cold preparations should not be used in children less than 2 years of age because no Food and Drug Administration-approved guidelines exist for children in this age group.

To prevent unintentional poisoning and minimize adverse effects from cough and cold preparations, the UPCC recommends the following:

" Store cough and cold preparations out of reach of small children.

" Do not refer to medications as candy.

" Use cough and cold medications only as directed.

" Avoid using more than one cough and cold medication, because many have the same or similar ingredients.

" Read all instructions before use. Many cough and cold preparations can interact with other non-prescription, prescription, and dietary supplement medications.

" Consult with primary care provider about using any non-prescription medication in small children.

The Utah Poison Control Center is a program of the University of Utah College of Pharmacy.

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Contact:

Marty C. Malheiro, MS, CHES UPCC Outreach Educator, 587-0603

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