January 29, 2008 in Nation/World

Government estimates cold med risk to kids

Mike Stobbe Associated Press
 

ATLANTA – Cough and cold medicines send about 7,000 children to hospital emergency rooms each year, the U.S. government said Monday in its first national estimate of the problem.

About two-thirds of the cases were children who took the medicines unsupervised. However, about one-quarter involved cases in which parents gave the proper dosage and an allergic reaction or some other problem developed, the study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The study included both over-the-counter and prescription medicines. It comes less than two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned parents that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are too dangerous for children younger than 2.

The study’s findings about the proportion of properly dosed kids who end up in the ER is likely to contribute to FDA discussions about recommendations of cough and cold medicines in the 2-to-6 age group, CDC officials said.

CDC researchers gathered case reports of children 11 and under who had taken cough and cold medications and wound up in 63 hospitals studied in 2004 and 2005. They used that number to come up with the national estimate.

About 1,600 of the estimated 7,100 children are under 2, so the FDA’s guidance – if followed – should reduce such ER cases by 23 percent.

Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved kids ages 2 to 5, the CDC found.

“The main message is no medication left in the hands of a 3-year-old is safe,” said the CDC’s Dr. Melissa Schaefer.

The study was published online Monday. It will appear in the April issue of Pediatrics, a journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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