Cough Syrup Conundrum: Kids Medicines Under the Microscope

By: Jessica Zartler Email
By: Jessica Zartler Email

A new warning about kids cough syrup, this time it's coming from the drug manufacturers. They plan to change their labels to say kids under four should not take the medicine, more expansive than the FDA's recommendations.

11 News Reporter Jessica Zartler went to the experts to get to the bottom of the cough syrup conundrum.

Heather Schneider is a mother of three. She says when her kids are sick she'll do anything to try and make them feel better.

"They get uptight, kinda cranky," Schneider told 11 News on Tuesday.

Like other parents she turns to cough syrup.

"Mostly just at night. Everytime they start coughing it keeps them awake," said Schneider.

Even working in a doctor's office, she gets confused reading some of the labels and studies for over the counter medicines.

"It's hard to keep on top of everything."

But reaching for the cough syrup may do more harm than good for some children according to medical experts.

Last year the FDA said children under two should stay away from cough syrup.

Tuesday the Consumer Healthcare Products Association said over–the–counter cold and cough medicine should not be given to children under four.

Dr. Melissa Schmalz of Western Medical Associates has read the studies and says cold and cough syrups are overrated all together.

"They show either minimal benefit to no benefit across the board, even in adults," Dr. Schmalz told 11 News on Tuesday.

She says most of the problems with giving them to kids come from overdosing and accidental ingestion, the leading causes for injury among children.

But as long as you follow the directions, she says cough syrups are safe for kids ages two to 11.

"If they're miserable the side effects are usually mild in children ages two to 11. You can go ahead if you think the benefits outweight the risks."

The doctor says a good night's rest, fluids and some tylenol might be a better answer at the end of the day.

But parents like Heather Schneider say they'll have a hard time switching away from cold and cough syrups.

And while the FDA continues to change its mind, she's just glad she won't be having anymore babies.

"No I'm done. I'm definitely done, three's enough."

FDA advisors say more studies are needed but in the meantime, researchers do not see a reason to pull current medication off the shelf.

New label changes should be phased in sometime over the next year.


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