Warnings on kids’ cold products slashed ER visits

November 12, 2013

After manufacturers began printing new warnings on medicine bottles, a smaller percentage of emergency room visits resulted from children taking cold and cough products, according to a study in Pediatrics.

After manufacturers began printing new warnings on medicine bottles, a smaller percentage of emergency room (ER) visits resulted from children taking cold and cough products, according to a study in Pediatrics.

Drug makers voluntarily recalled over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children in 2007, following reports of emergency room visits and deaths related to the products.

Eventually, the medicines were rereleased with warnings that children younger than 4 years old should not take them. Since the new warnings, the percentage of ER visits related to children taking cough and cold medicines has dropped significantly, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to do to reduce adverse events from cough and cold medications," said Lee Hampton, a CDC medical officer who was the study's lead author.

CDC officials said there were 61,168 ER visits between 2004 and 2011 among children younger than 12 years old related to adverse events from cough and cold medicines.

Prior to 2007, when the children’s products were pulled from shelves, children under 2 who had a reaction to cough and cold medicines accounted for about 4% of all ER visits. After the medicines were reintroduced with the stronger warnings, that number fell to about 2%.

Before the products were removed and relabeled, reactions to cough and cold medicines among 2 and 3 year-olds represented 10% of all ER visits. That percentage dipped to 7% after warnings were added to labels.

While happy with the label-change results, CDC officials and others believe the bottles containing such medicines need to be made safer. CDC officials said 64% of the children under 2 who ended up in the ER after taking the medicines had swallowed it while unsupervised.