Report: many parents give toddlers cough and cold medicine when they shouldn't

Apr 22, 2013

University of Michigan researchers say more than forty percent of parents are making a serious mistake when they try to treat their toddlers for a cough or cold.

In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued an advisory that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be used in children under age of four. The drugs have not been proven effective for young children and may cause serious side effects.

But a new poll by U of M researchers says more than 40% of parents are using the medicine to treat their toddlers.

“The chances that parents had given over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to the young kids did not differ whether we were talking about moms and dads….different racial and ethnic groups….different income levels or different education levels,” says Matthew Davis, the director of the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.

Davis says larger warning labels on cough and cold medicines would help.

“All of these medicines are labeled as children’s medications. And in order to know that they are not recommended for children under age 4, you have to read the very fine print on the box or on the bottle label,” says Davis.

Davis says it has been a while since the issue was first brought up.  He says it’s probably time for an education campaign to remind parents not to give their infants and toddlers cough and cold medications intended for older children.