Health Team

Parents Struggle After FDA Panel Urges Ban on OTC Cold Meds

Posted December 6, 2007
Updated December 7, 2007

Sniffling, sneezing and coughing are all around us, especially among younger children. But many old, drug-store remedies are no longer available for children after a recommendation from an advisory panel for the federal Food and Drug Administration.

Children under age 6 are too young for over-the-counter cold medications, according to the FDA panel, which called for an outright ban on the medications. Some products have been taken off the shelves since the panel made its recommendation in October.

"It's harder, because usually you can just go in and get infant drops for decongestant," said Lora Chavez, the mother of a 15-month-old girl, Lexie. "And since they don't sell it no more, you have no options."

WakeMed hospital has recently seen parents like Chavez bring in a few children with severe cold symptoms. Pharmacists say they have seen a lot of parents who are taking the news hard.

"We've seen a lot of patients that are kind of in a panic," said pharmacist Mike James, who works at Person Street Pharmacy.

James recommends that parents attack individual symptoms. Saline drops are still available and might help relieve nasal congestion. Chavez said she's tried that remedy for Lexie, but, "She fights it."

Fevers are often the most severe cold symptom. Medicines with acetaminophen can often relieve them.

Although many parents only call their pediatrician when their child has a fever, parents ought to check with doctors when a child has difficulty breathing, refuses to eat and drink or is unusually tired.

As for a coughs, it might sound bad, "but usually it's not harmful for the child," Dr. Karen Chilton, a pediatrician at WakeMed, said. "It's important to remember that it's not really hurting them. It's just uncomfortable."

Some new research suggests a half to a full teaspoon of honey may calm a cough before bedtime and help the child sleep better. Honey should not be given to infants less than a year old.

As always with colds, make sure children drink plenty of fluids.

One other very important note: Honey can have Botulinic toxin that can cause botulism in infants. It is recommended not to give honey to children under 1 year of age. This is the very age group that is most affected by the recent FDA recommendations.


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  • deborah23 Dec 7, 2007

    Problem is, FDA is making it seem as though parents don't know how to read or follow directions. But they tell us- "Use honey instead, but don't give it to children under 1" If parents can't follow directions written on a bottle, what makes them think that those same idiotic parents are going to abide by not doling out honey to kids under 1? Come on! I guess it takes an idiot to know an idiot.

  • SaveEnergyMan Dec 7, 2007

    I don't think these so called researchers have a clue. I have a child, 6 years old now, and those medicines worked wonders for the child and even more wonders for the tired parents. The meds, just like with everything in life, have to be dispensed following the directions and in moderation.

    You can die from drinking too much water, but we don't lock up the tap. You can hurt yourself driving a car, but we give driver's licenses to just about anyone. Medicines have labels that are to be followed. This is just government caving in because lawyers will sue drug companies when parents don't follow directions.

  • Whatthehey Dec 6, 2007

    We all are denied or restricted access to some effective medications because of potential abuse or misuse by a minority. Paregoric and codeine cough syrup, previously available OTC, are more effective when used responsibly - and cheaper - than any of the "safe" designer drugs on the market today. The American College of Chest Physicians "strongly discourages the use of OTC nonprescription cough syrups because they're not effective at treating the underlying cause of cough due to colds, having ingredients that may alleviate coughing but in amounts too small to do much good and that may actually be harmful for children."
    Jay Hoecker, M.D. wrote "Infants younger than 12 months are at risk of infant botulism from eating honey. Infant botulism is a rare but serious form of food poisoning. Honey is a known source of spores that produce Clostridium botulinum bacteria. When ingested by an infant, these bacteria make a toxin that can cause infant botulism." © 1998-2007 Mayo Foundation

  • rainy39 Dec 6, 2007

    " My wife cracked a rib due to a n illness that was causing her to have coughing spells frequently."

    I too cracked a rib by coughing. The government acts as though all people are too idiotic to know how to read directions in giving their children medication or anything else. These medications have been around for years and did wonders for the children and parents alike. And tabby you are right in the honey not being given to children under 1 but then again when they dont report that in these stories then they make us parents seem more dumb and uneducated. No drug is 100% side effect proof, whether its for adults or children. Its up to us to read and follow directions and also to study any information that we may deem necessary. I wish the government would stop butting into every aspect of our lives and start worrying more about the prices of food and gas in THE that we may go to work and feed our kids. The medication wont do them any good if they are starved for food.

  • poohperson2000 Dec 6, 2007

    The people that say a cough is not harmful, probably do not have to get up and drag their toosh to work after being up all night with a coughing kid, with a stuffy nose..

    Not to mention most little kids (no matter how many times you tell them) fail to cover their mouths when they cough, and in a group environment like school, expose everyone else. Glad my kid is seven, because he has been sick for the last month, and you can only keep them out of school so many days. At least the medicine before school prevents his cough for part of the day (and stops the constant pour of snot out of his nose).

  • whatelseisnew Dec 6, 2007

    So now the truth to this is coming out. This gets more business into the Pediatricians offices. It probably will also increase traffic into emergency rooms as well. Always follow the money, that is where the truth is found these days. We used a couple of these over the counter products for our children when they were young and they worked quite well in relieving certain symptoms. One pediatrician says coughing can do no harm. I suggest you go back to medical school you quack. My wife cracked a rib due to a n illness that was causing her to have coughing spells frequently. Yep our good old Government strikes again.