CDC Reports that Cough and Cold Medicines Send 7,000 Children to Hospital Each Year

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The Associated Press is reporting that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) is estimating that each year cough and cold medicines send about 7,091 children to hospital emergency rooms.

Of these 7,000 cases, about two-thirds of the cases were children who took the medicines unsupervised. Of the remaining 2,600 cases, about 1,600 were were children under the age of 2 years old who were given over-the-counter cough and cold medicines that the FDA considers to be too dangerous for such young children.

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.

Caution Giving Children Cough and Cold Medicines

FDA is cautioning parents and caregivers about giving their children cough and cold medicines. FDA strongly recommends that cough and cold medicines NOT be given to children younger than 2 years old because serious and potentially life-threatening si...

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.

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

Many of the ER case reports were not specific about symptoms, and the researchers did not follow cases through to conclusion. So they did not know if — or how many — deaths resulted, said Schaefer, an epidemiologist who was the study's lead author. For the children whose symptoms were reported, allergic reactions like hives and itching were most common, and neurological symptoms like drowsiness and unresponsiveness were next, she said. Most of the medicines involved were liquid combinations of cough and cold treatments, CDC researchers said.

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

This book section: ADHD Medication Issues and Research

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., MFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Tehachapi, CA who has been a counselor to children, teens, and adults helping them to overcome ADHD, find relief for depression or anxiety, and solve other problems in life since 1989. He served on the medical advisory board to the company that makes Attend and Extress from 1997 through 2011, and he is the Editor of the ADHD Information Library online resource at His weekly ADHD Newsletter goes out to 9,500 families. Visit his website at for more information on achieving greater health, personal growth, Christ-centered spirituality, stress management, parenting skills, ADHD, working out the stresses of being a care-giver to elderly parents and also being a parent to teenagers, or finding greater meaning in retirement years, Dr. Cowan can be a valuable resource to you.

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