Don’t Give Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Medicines to Children Under 2 Without First Consulting a Doctor

Last year we reported that the FDA has issued an advisory recommending that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products should not be used to treat infants and children less than 2 years of age because serious and potentially life-threatening side effects can occur from such use.

Recent research published in the June 2009 issue of Pediatrics found that graphics (such as pictures of teddy bears and droppers) and text (such as "pediatrician recommended") on OTC cough and cold medicines can mislead parents and other caregivers into giving them to children under 2 without first consulting a physician. Specifically, the study found that:

  • When looking only at the front of the product, 86% of parents thought the products were appropriate for use in children under 2
  • Despite the fact that each product package specifically recommends consulting with a physician before administering the medication to a child under 2, 51% of the time caregivers said they would give the product to a 13-month-old with cold symptoms.

Lesson: don't give an OTC cough and cold medicine to a child under 2 without consulting with your pediatrician first.