Dangers of OTC cold remedies may not be understood by parents

May 1, 2009

Parents with some understanding of the possible dangers of OTC cold remedies often still give them to their young children.

Key Points

Parents are unsure about giving over-the-counter cough and cold medications to their children, but according to a recent survey, they are not talking to their pharmacists or physicians about it.

While 90 percent of parents said they are somewhat knowledgeable about possible dangers associated with OTC cough and cold products, 62 percent give them to their children, according to the Harris Interactive survey commissioned by natural products maker Bionorica.

Surprisingly, 16 percent of those surveyed said they had never heard about the possible dangers of OTC cough and cold products, which can have life-threatening side effects when given to children under 2 years old. Some studies also show the products are ineffective for treating children's coughs and colds, and the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether the medications are safe for children under 6 years old.

Duggal said water is just as effective as some cough and cold mediations. Pharmacists can also recommend some scientifically tested and validated natural remedies to parents, he said.

"It concerns me that so many parents are still giving their children these OTC cough and cold products, with the possible associated dangers and the question of their effectiveness in children," added Marcela Dominguez, MD, certified family medicine physician at Mission Hospital Regional Medical Center in California.

In the survey, conducted in March, a majority of respondents (73 percent) said they obtained information about the dangers of cough and cold products from the media and the Internet. However, only 41 percent said they heard about the possible dangers of OTC cough and cold products from their physicians, and 39 percent said they heard about the dangers from family members and friends.

Consumer groups have urged the FDA to pull all children's cough and cold medications from retail shelves or else to make them available by prescription only. About 95 million units of pediatric cough and cold medications are sold annually.