Dr. Benjamin Brewer, who writes “The Doctor’s Office” column in the Wall Street Journal, addresses the issue of giving cough and cold medicines to children.
As a parent, he gives his 3-year-old combination cough-and-cold medication. As a doctor, he recommends against it.
After the recommendations against over-the-counter cold medicines came out, we heeded them for less than 24 hours in our house. Once my sick son took the medicine, his sniffles and coughing abated a bit. His symptoms returned later that day, after we discontinued the treatment. Our experience showed that whatever mild benefits these medications offer, they don’t last long.
The risks with cough-and-cold medication are clear. If you don’t know your phenylephrine from your acetaminophen, you can deliver more potency than you had intended by unknowingly combining products with similar ingredients and confusing chemical names.
Overdoses of medication occur all too often; the FDA has linked over-the-counter medicines to 123 pediatric deaths since 1969. Most of the fatalities were in children younger than 2.
Professionally, he seems pleased that the infant cough and cold meds are off the market, if only because it cuts down on the nighttime calls for advice:
The crackdown on cold medicines for kids may have an unintended benefit for me. With infant cold medications off the market, I won’t miss the parents calling in the middle of the night for recommendations on how much to use. I won’t miss meticulously documenting how many tenths of a milliliter I advised a person to give or the liability risks associated with my advice.
My new answer is simple: “It’s just a virus, and, unfortunately, there is no safe and effective cold medication on the market that I can recommend to you.”
At my house, though, I have found that the advice to hold off on a kid’s cold medicine is much easier to give than it is to heed.
Do you give your children cough and cold meds?
It’s Hard to Heed the Experts When Your Kid Has the Cold [Wall Street Journal]