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    Parents ignore advice about OTC medicines for kids

    A new nationwide poll finds that parents are still giving over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to their children aged younger than 4 years, a practice that is contrary to advisories from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

    Researchers from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital asked a national sample of parents (n=498) with children aged younger than 4 years about the types of medicines they gave their children for cold symptoms. Forty-four percent reported giving multisymptom cough and cold remedies to treat their children’s symptoms, 42% administered cough medicine, and 25% gave their children decongestants. Data showed that parents’ use of OTC cough and cold medicines for children under 4 did not differ by parents’ sex, race, ethnicity, or household income.

    Young children should not be taking OTC cold remedies marketed for children because the drugs have not been proven effective for this age group. OTC medicines do not reduce infections or their durations and if misused may lead to serious harm. Adverse effects include allergic reactions, uneven heart rate, drowsiness or sleepiness, shallow breathing, hallucinations, convulsions, nausea, and constipation.

    Manufacturers changed labeling on their products in response to an FDA advisory in 2008 to state that cough and cold medicines should not be used in children aged younger than 4 years. However, these products often are advertised as children’s medications, and the poll found that many parents are unaware of or do not read the labeling.

    Physicians should advise parents and caregivers to read and follow instructions on medicine labels. If they have questions whether their child’s illness is something more serious than a cold, they should contact their health care providers.

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