Caution Urged When Giving Infants Cough and Cold Medications

I never write about children’s health, since I have no training in pediatrics and my patients are adults. Nevertheless, I thought this story deserves your attention, particularly since many of my patients have young children.

The Centers for Disease Control released a warning today in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report about adverse events in infants taking cough and cold medications. If you have a child less than two years of age, I urge you to read the entire brief article.

The issue seems to be that infants occasionally receive inappropriately high doses of these medications, leading to about 1,500 emergency department visits in 2004 and 2005, and three identified deaths. The packaging does not have dosing recommendations for children < 2 years, since the FDA has never tested appropriate doses in this age group. The bottom line is that the CDC advises parents to check with the child’s physician before giving cough and cold medications to a child younger than two, and to follow those instructions meticulously.

The part of the caution that surprised me most was that the medical literature has not demonstrated that cough and cold medications reduce cold symptoms better than placebo in children aged < 2. Perhaps in this age group we’re better off using humidifiers, saline nasal drops, nasal suctioning, and some patience.

Tangential Miscellany:

The pedometers have arrived! Dozens of patients and their friends have joined the Pedometer Project, which will start on February 1. It’s not too late to sign up!

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