FDA: Cold and cough medicine too risky for young children

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- With cold and flu season well under way, the Food and Drug Administration is warning parents that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are too risky for children under two.

Health officials say those types of medicines are meant to treat symptoms and not the underlying condition.

Additionally, they have not been shown to be safe or effective for young children.

"Parents want their children to feel better,” said Dr. William Harrison, a pediatrician with Pediatric Consultants of East Tennessee. “They know the illness will go away, but that does not help when they can't sleep, won't eat or even cough until they throw up and they're looking for something to do."

Dr. Harrison said side effects are rare in young children taking cough and cold products, but the FDA says they can include death, convulsions, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness.

According to the CDC, about 1,500 babies and toddlers wound up in emergency rooms last year after having bad reactions to cold medicines.

"I think the issue is whether or not the parents can safely use the medicines they buy over the counter,” said Dr. Harrison. “That more than ‘is the medicine safer if used appropriately in the proper dose.’"

The FDA's announcement cited cough and cold products that include decongestants, expectorants, antihistamines and cough suppressants.

Their advisory comes about three months after some of the leading manufacturers of cold and cough medicines announced a voluntary recall of more than a dozen cold medicines for infants.

Some health officials called the Thursday announcement a good first step and the American Academy of Pediatrics is backing a move to petition the FDA to end the use of cough and cold medicines by all children under age six.

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