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Cold meds not intended for young kids: report

April 29, 2013

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Ann Arbor, MI – Despite warning labels, many parents give their young sick children over-the-counter cold and cough medicine that could cause serious side effects, according to a new poll (.pdf file) from the University of Michigan.

As part of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, a sample of parents with children 3 or younger answered questions about the types of medication they had given their child. Approximately 40 percent reported giving cough or cold medicine; one-quarter reported giving decongestants.

A 2008 advisory from the Food and Drug Administration cautions against giving these medications to children younger than 2, and warning labels on cold medicines state they should not be given to children younger than 4.

Potential side effects for young children include allergic reactions, uneven heart rate, drowsiness, slow and shallow breathing, confusion, hallucinations, convulsions, and constipation, according to a U-M press release.

Researchers recommend that parents read directions on all over-the-counter medications and call their pediatrician with any questions.