Cough Medicines and Children

Starting in 2007, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began a campaign against the use of cough medicines for children. In February of 2009, they issued FDA Patient Safety News: Show #83 entitled ‘New Labels for Non-prescription Cough and Cold Medicines.’ They advise parents not to administer medicine to children that is labeled for adults. The directive contains other warnings for parents such as the importance of reading and understanding the label that gives the dosage and time for administering it. All of these actions were prompted by the fact that children have become ill as a result of improper dosage.

The FDA is also concerned about the use of cough medicines by children without parental knowledge or consent. Some over the counter cough suppressants contain dextromethorphan or DXM. While DXM is safe when taken in the recommended fifteen to thirty milligram dose, when taken in large quantities as abusers do, it can result in a quick buzz. But it is also dangerous with many side effects such as impaired judgment, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, irregular heartbeat, seizures, and brain damage.

These medications do not cure a cold they merely relieve the symptoms. They don’t even reduce the amount of time the child is ill. Prescription medications are always accompanied by a fact sheet from the pharmacist stating directions for using, and noting any possible side effects. Plus the pharmacist will usually explain all of this information to the person picking up the prescription.

While over the counter medications contain the same information, consumers are not as likely to read it. And this is important when administering medication to a child. The parent should at least read and understand the basics such as how much to administer this, when to give it and how often it can be given. Parents should also pay attention to whether it should be given before eating, after eating, with food, with water or without. It is important to read about side effects so that you can recognize them if they should occur.

Parents are also advised to keep a written log stating the medicine or medicines being administered, the amount of each dose and the time it was given. If it becomes necessary to take the child to a doctor or to a hospital, the log should be taken along for the doctor to see. When medicating children there are some crucial do’s and don’ts. Don’t give medicine to a child under four years of age without a doctor’s permission. Don’t give or allow anyone else to give aspirin to a child under eighteen years of age. Aspirin can trigger Reyes Syndrome, a serious condition that can result in seizures, brain damage and death. Do be sure to educate children on the importance of this. Don’t give adult medications to children. Medicine affects children’s systems differently than adults. All headache, fever, and cold medicines are available in products formulated especially for children. Don’t administer both prescription and over-the-counter remedies without your doctor’s knowledge. And finally, clean out your medicine cabinet and get rid of anything past the expiry date.