How safe and effective is the use of cough and cold medicines in children? An advisory committee of the United States Food and Drug Administration will meet in October to discuss this issue.
Some doctors say cough and cold products do not work in children, and they worry about possible risks. F.D.A. officials say that some reports of problems appear to be the result of giving too much medicine to children. This may lead to serious and life-threatening side effects, especially in children age two and younger.
The products are sold without the need for a doctor's approval. Yet cough and cold medicines can be harmful if people take them more often or in greater amounts than they should. There is a risk, for example, in taking more than one product containing the same active chemicals.
Too much cold medicine may affect the heart. Some medicines have also been linked to high blood pressure and strokes.
Products for children may contain medicines that were approved many years ago based on studies in adults. The drug approval process has changed since then.
F.D.A. officials have this warning for parents: Do not use cough and cold products in children under two years of age unless a health care provider tells you to.
The officials also have other advice. For example, children should never be given medicines that are meant for adults. Cough and cold medicines are sold in different strengths. Ask a medical professional if you are not sure about the right product for a child.
If a child is being given other medicines, the child's health care provider should approve their combined use.
Read all the information and warnings provided with a drug and carefully follow the directions for use.
For liquid products, use the dropper or other measuring device that comes with the medicine or buy the correct one at a drug store. Do not use household spoons; they could provide the wrong amount of medicine.
The F.D.A points out that children get better with time and that cough and cold medicines only treat signs of the common cold. They are not a cure. If a child's condition gets worse or does not improve, stop using the product and have the child examined immediately.
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Brianna Blake. I'm Barbara Klein.