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Health Team

Parents Struggle After FDA Panel Urges Ban on OTC Cold Meds

Posted December 6, 2007 6:34 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2007 3:30 p.m. EST

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.