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Getting Over Cold Medications

Written by Darrel Crain, DC   
Monday, 01 December 2008 00:00
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Getting Over Cold Medications
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Very young children come down with colds. Agreement with this statement is universal among parents, pediatricians, drug makers, and even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But there is less agreement over whether or not medicine is helpful to little ones suffering from a cold.

“It’s important to point out that these medicines are safe and effective when used as directed…” said Linda A. Suydam, president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, quoted in The Washington Post, October 12, 2007.

“Clearly, the products don’t work and are unsafe,” said Joshua M. Sharfstein, M.D., Baltimore Health Commissioner, also quoted in The Washington Post.

Could these two views be any further apart? Both of them can’t be right, so which one is making things up, the cold medicine industry spokesperson, or the doctor?

“Take a cold remedy and get over the cold in seven days, otherwise recovery will take a week,” according to traditional folk wisdom.

The American Academy of Pediatrics tends to agree with tradition on this particular point and recommends against medicating young children to treat cold symptoms. Drug makers, on the other hand, spent about 50 million bucks last year to convince parents to buy over-the-counter (OTC) drugs to treat cold symptoms. And the advertising must be working because sales reportedly jumped 20 percent last year and were expected to climb again this year—up until last week.

Fourteen infant cold medications were pulled from store shelves across the country, just seven days before an FDA committee was slated to begin investigating the drugs.

“An FDA review prepared for next week’s meeting describes dozens of cases of convulsions, heart problems, trouble breathing, neurological complications and other reactions, including at least 54 deaths involving decongestants and 69 deaths involving antihistamines,” reports The Washington Post.

Dr. Sharfstein long ago alerted the FDA to widespread problems with the drugs after a total of 900 Maryland children under 4 years of age suffered an overdose in a single year, 2004.

“Given that there are serious consequences, including death, associated with the use of these products without compelling reason to use them, why are they being marketed for children?” Sharfstein asked. “The contrast between the state of the evidence and the displays in drugstores could not be more stark.”