FDA Advises Parents Not to Treat Babies, Toddlers with OTC Cold, Cough Meds

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- The Federal Drug Administration issued a public health advisory Thursday warning parents against giving babies and toddlers over-the-counter cough and cold medicines...saying they are too risky for tots so small.

But the ruling is still out on whether or not the remedies are appropriate for older children to continue to use.  The advisory marks the government's first ruling on the issue.  The FDA says there's no evidence that these oral drugs actually ease cold symptoms in children so young -- some studies suggest they do no good at all.

There are plenty of packages of children's medicine to choose from on the shelves of Soo's Pharmacy in Jonesboro...everything from cold and allergy to multi-symptom relief.  But most of them have the same advice on the back for patients under the age of two: consult a doctor.

"We get a lot of parents who are coming in requesting that we make recommendations on what to give their babies and their children for coughs and colds, so we have to adjust to whatever the FDA says as far as our recommendations," said pharmacist Dr. Krystal Soo.

Last October, drug companies quit selling versions targeted specifically to babies and toddlers.  That same month, FDA advisors voted the drugs don't even work in children under the age of six.  But parental over-medication may be the biggest concern.

"Parents might not realize that say a medicine had Tylenol in it and they would give the cough and cold preparation that had Tylenol in it and then turn around and give Tylenol itself and that's where a lot of these overdose cases have actually come from," said Soo.

Last year, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that more than 1,500 toddlers and babies wound up in the emergency room over a two year period because of the drugs.

Pharmacists can offer alternatives.

"We recommend the saline nose drops or nose spray, that will help break lose the congestion, then in other cases where the cold is more severe, or the symptoms are so uncomfortable, the child can't sleep we have to make the recommendation for the child to visit the doctor to get the prescription item now," said Soo.

The FDA is now asking an even bigger question: are over the counter cold remedies safe and effective for children under the age of 12?  The government has called for more research to determine what effects the medicines have in youngsters overall.

In the meantime the FDA's advisory recommends when giving older children OTC medications, carefully follow the label's directions, be careful when giving more than one product to a child...two or more medicines could have the same or similar ingredients, causing a child to over dose and always be aware that these drugs only treat symptoms...colds are viruses and the drugs will not make them go away any faster.