The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has advised that cough and cold medicines may cause harm to children and should not be given to those aged under six. Furthermore, only those children aged between six and 11 should be given cough and cold medicines and then only on medical advice. This new warning came from the TGA on the 15th August after they found that even though there were no immediate safety risks, ”There is evidence that they may cause harm to children” and “The benefits of using them in children have not been proven”.
Reasons for the TGA warning included:
- A baby may appear to have just a cold but might be suffering from another illness, such as asthma, influenza, or pneumonia.
- Cough and cold medicines offer temporary relief of runny nose, cough and fever. ”They do not affect the severity of the viral infection or shorten the time the infection lasts”.
- ”Overdose of these medicines can lead to serious harm.”
- Possible side effects included: allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, slow and shallow breathing, drowsiness, hallucinations, convulsions or nausea.
The type of cough and cold medicines affected by the new advice includes: antihistamines, anti- tussives, mucolytics/expectorants and decongestants.
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians told the TGA that the changes may have unintended negative consequences. Parents might be tempted to give medicines intended for others to a younger sibling with a cough. ”Parents may guess a dose, with potential for overdosing and associated harm.” It was crucial there were effective educational campaigns to ensure caregivers had a very clear understanding of the reasons for the changes, it said.
However pharmacy representatives were reported to have reservations. While the pharmacists acknowledged the lack of evidence for efficacy of cough and cold remedies, they contended that lack of data did not equate to evidence of lack of efficacy. ”The pharmacy profession submitted that available data do not support safety concerns within the Australian context, and that the available evidence does not support the proposed restrictions,” the TGA reported. In many cases, cough and cold medicines available in the Australian marketplace are already labelled and packaged in accordance with these conclusions.
Similar international reviews on over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for children have also been conducted by regulatory authorities in: Canada, New Zealand, UK, and USA.
Here’s some good common sense advice:
- Do not use these over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children under 6 years.
- With children older than 6, follow all the instructions carefully, which includes the dosing and length-of-use directions, and use the dosing device if one is included.
- Do not give children medications labelled only for adults.
- Do not give more than one kind of cough and cold medicine to a child. Cough and cold medications often contain multiple ingredients. Combining products with the same ingredient(s) could cause an overdose that may result in harm to a child.
- Cough and cold medicines offer only temporary relief of symptoms which could be well managed with a common-sense approach: adequate rest, increased fluid intake, hot lemon and ginger drinks, a comfortable environment with adequate humidity and the careful use of homeopathic kit remedies in the home.
- Chicken soup really is good for children and the whole family when you’ve got a cold.
- If symptoms do not improve, or if the child’s condition worsens then rule out any more serious illness.