Study: 2007 discontinuation of baby and toddler cold meds caused big drop in ER visits

A study published in medical journal Pediatrics shows that following a recommendation that cold medications for babies and very young children was implemented that the number of emergency room visits for drug-related complications fell correspondingly.

The Washington Post called the study a “mixed bag,” as visits for children who accidentally ingested the drugs or whose parents did not check the medications after two years remained high. However, it seems that might not be a “mixed bag” at all, as the instruction to discontinue using the medications entirely was not heeded in these families.

The CDC’s Dr. Daniel Budnitz commented on the new statistics, saying that the study also illustrates a need for better childproofing on children’s medications. Per Dr. Budnitz, the guidelines were revised twice:

Makers of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines voluntarily withdrew the products, mostly syrups, in October 2007. Pediatricians had complained that the products don’t work in young kids and posed a safety risk because of accidental overdoses causing extreme drowsiness, increased heart rate and even some deaths.

The Food and Drug Administration in 2008 warned against using the medicines in children younger than 2; labels now advise against using them in children younger than 4, Budnitz noted.

Also noted was that both before and after the medications were removed from store shelves, two out three of the related visits were due to children that got into the medications on their own. As with the study released recently about antibiotic treatment for children’s ear infections suggests, with common childhood bugs, the best treatment may involve allowing the bout of illness to run its course.