Most childhood cough, cold medicine overdoses linked to unsupervised use

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Feb. 18, 2008

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An estimated 7,091 patients younger than 12 end up in an emergency department every year for treatment of an adverse event associated with cough and cold medications. For the majority of incidents, a parent or other caregiver has no knowledge of what the child has swallowed, according to a study by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and published online in Pediatrics last month. The paper will be included in the April print edition.

A review of 2004-05 data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System -- Cooperative Adverse Drug Event Surveillance revealed that 64% of emergency department visits for cough and cold medication use in children was in those age 2 to 5. Approximately 77% of these incidents were unsupervised, but few patients required hospitalization, with most being treated and released.

Epidemiologists with the agency took an interest in the phenomenon in response to recent concerns about the safety of these products in this age group. The Food and Drug Administration issued a statement last month saying that they should not be used in those younger than 2. Use by those age 2 to 11 is under investigation.

Note: This item originally appeared at

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