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No more cold medicine for you, young child!

By Isabel Kallman

iStock_000000464908XSmall.jpg By now you have heard about the FDA panel’s review of cold medication for children. Probably, right unless you’ve been under a rock. But I don’t want to rule that out a possibility.
If not, here’s the PSA.

At the end of last week, an FDA panel reviewed whether the benefits of OTC children’s cold medicine outweighed the risks. They determined there was no evidence that cold medication eased cold symptoms, yet they found rare reports that these medicines harmed young children (usually because of accidental overdosing). The conclusion, a recommended ban on OTC cold medication for kids under 6 years of age.

Twenty-one out of 22 members agreed that cold medicines should not be given to children under 2 years of age. The group wasn’t as decided on medicines for children two to under 6 years old, with the final vote as 13 to 9 for the ban. The panel voted against a ban for children from 6 to 12 years of age. Looks like the main issue is that panel members were concerned that parents will choose to medicate using adult cough medicines.

Now, the FDA may or may not decide to agree with the panel’s recommendations, but they usually adopt them. However, the closer the vote the more likely the agency will ignore the recommendation.

First of all, I never realized these medications were never tested by the FDA for children, but only tested for adults.
Also, I didn’t realize that the FDA chose to look at this issue after a petition from pediatricians was presented to them. A number of pediatricians and parents have been reported as saying that they always knew that these cold medications are ineffective.

I have to tell you, I am personally surprised at this. Clearly only rest and time cure the common cold, but at least my personal experience was that that these OTC medications sure did help give my son some comfort when he was feeling awfully lousy. Also, I think if it weren’t so helpful this wouldn’t be a $500 million per annum business. Sure these medicines may be a placebo for some, but millions upon millions of doses are adminstered each year.

I am left scratching my head. Is it the sedating effect which makes kids more comfortable? Or, is it the relief of discomfort that makes kids able to sleep? Ah, the age old conundrum of the chicken or the egg.

So what to expect now?
Looks like children’s cold medicine will continue to be on store shelves.
If the FDA decides to adopt the committee’s recommendations, it must undertake a rule-making process that can take anywhere from one to many years. Simply relabeling the medicines to state they shouldn’t be used in some age groups could be accomplished more quickly, FDA officials said. Or, the industry could make a preemptive move and revise the labels on the medicines to caution against use by children under six. We’ll have to wait and see.
One thing’s for sure, we’re going to see standard measuring devices across products to cut down on accidental overdoses.

What do we parents do to help our young kids during a cold?
— Plenty of liquids, from water to chicken soup.
— Suction bulbs can gently clear infants’ clogged noses.
— Saline nose drops loosen thick secretions so noses drain more easily.
— A cool-mist humidifier in the child’s bedroom.
— Some chest creams can ease stuffiness with menthol or other fragrances, but check labels for age restrictions.
— Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as recommended by your doctor, to alleviate pain or discomfort — but check that they don’t contain extra ingredients like decongestants or antihistamines.

Sources: NY Times, MSNBC

Isabel Kallman
About the Author

Isabel Kallman

Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.


Isabel Kallman is the founding mom of

Feel free to send nice emails to isabel[at]alphamom[dot]com.

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It’s amazing children’s medicine does not come with an oral syringe. The measuring cup is not good enough.


Since we have so many animals, we always have a supply of syringes on hand, from tiny 1mls to big ol’ 30cc whoppers, and since having a child, now we make sure we always have a supply of 5cc syringes for her medicines. Just stop by your local feed or tack store, anywhere that carries livestock supplies, and you can pick them up for pennies.