After OTC Cold Medicine Recall, Kids’ Accidental Overdoses Declined

A significant reduction in reports of accidental overdosing and other issues mandating emergency room (ER) treatment has been seen following the <"">voluntary withdrawal of over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines, reports WebMD, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The product withdrawals took place in late 2007 following concerns over limited information on the efficacy and possible adverse reactions seen in OTC medicines used in children younger than age two, explained WebMD, according to a CDC news release. The medications that were withdrawn were all taken orally.

Investigators at the CDC reviewed hospital records, looking specifically at ER visits to 63 emergency departments by children who were under the age of 12 in the 14 months prior to and following the product withdrawals, wrote Web MD. The aggregate number of ER visits for these reasons in children under age 12 did not see a significant change.

Some two-thirds of all ER visits involving cough and cold medications—both before and after product withdrawal was conducted—was due to unsupervised ingestion of the medications, said the CDC, wrote WebMD. The study appears online now in advance of the December 2010 print edition issue of Pediatrics.

Carl Ramsay, MD, who is acting chairman of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, said, via news release, that while the study is “not fully comprehensive” as far as data is concerned, he believes that the findings “accurately reflect the current message that should be sent to clinicians and caregivers regarding the use of cough and cold medications in patients under 12 years: Avoid them,” quoted WebMD.

According to Doctor Ramsay, the research indicates that cough and cold medicines are of “little benefit and provide much greater potential for harm,” reported WebMD. Doctor Ramsay does say that the research suggests that physicians and caregivers should avoid using OTC cough and cold medications for children under the age of two, wrote WebMD.

“The responsibility rests with myself and all other clinicians treating patients up to age 12 to educate and direct treatment toward a non-medication management plan,” Ramsay concluded, reported WebMD.

The use of OTC cough and cold medications has long been a point of concern in the United States and, in early 2008, Health Canada—Canada’s federal health agency—recommended parents not give OTC cold medications to children under the age of two, citing evidence of limited effectiveness in this population. In 2009, Health Canada raised the age to six over issues of misuse and overdosing problems.

Also in 2009, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that these drugs can adversely affect young children, specifically under the age of six, with side effects such as hives, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and, in the worst of situations, death.

Help filing claims and other legal assistance for the victims of OTC cough and cold medications is available at <"">

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