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Despite Label Revisions, Cough/Cold Medication Dangers Remain for Kids

Filed November 12th, 2013 Laurie

A new study shows that the majority of young children who are seen in U.S. emergency rooms for accidentally ingesting over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medicines do so while they are unsupervised, raising concerns over how to make the medications’ packaging safer.

Still, experts say more needs to be done to prevent children from accidentally taking OTC medication. “Progress has been made, but there is still a lot of work to do to reduce adverse events from cough and cold medications,” Dr. Lee Hampton, the study’s lead author and a medical officer with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told Reuters.

Drug makers voluntarily recalled children’s OTC cough and cold medicines in 2007 amid reports of ER visits for reactions and even some deaths. The medications’ efficacy was also in question. The medications were re-released the following year with stronger warnings stating that they are not intended for use in children under the age of four; however, surveys show that parents are still giving them to young children, according to Reuters.

Although the new study shows that children had fewer reactions to the medications than they did before the labeling changes, the data also shows that unsupervised ingestion of cough and cold medicines remains a problem. About 64 percent of children under two years old who were seen in the ER after ingesting OTC medications had swallowed it while unsupervised, Reuters reported.

Unsupervised ingestion represented about 89 percent of ER visits for cough and cold medication reactions in children ages two and three after the labeling change, according to Reuters.

Hampton and his colleagues write that possible design changes to cough and cold medicine bottles could include flow restrictors would make young children even safer. They also said that safer medication handling and storage practices could help, Reuters reported.

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