You are here

Despite FDA Warnings, Parents Continue Giving Cough & Cold Meds to Young Kids


When your little one has a cough or cold, it’s hard to see him suffer. Maybe that’s why 61 percent of parents of children age 2 and younger have given their kids over-the-counter cough and cold medicine within the last 12 months, according to a poll released earlier this week by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. This is despite the 2008 recommendation by the FDA that OTC cough and cold medicine not be given to kids under age 2, manufacturers voluntarily recalling these products for this age group, studies showing that they do little to control symptoms, and research linking them to poisoning or death in hundreds of kids under the age of 2.

Plus: Guide to Colds, Coughs, and Ear Infections

The poll also found that use of OTC cough and cold medications varied by race/ethnicity: 57 percent of white parents gave them to their kids; 69 percent of Hispanic parents did so; and 80 percent of black parents gave their children such products. Use also varied by income: the highest (80 percent) was in families with an annual income of less than $30,000 and lowest (41 percent) in families with an annual income of $100,000 or more. Two-thirds of parents reported giving the medicine because they wanted their child to be able to sleep better or to be more comfortable during the day.

Plus: How to Soothe Your Baby’s Cold Symptoms without Drugs

Perhaps most surprisingly, the poll found that more than half of parents reported that their child’s pediatrician said that OTC cough and cold medicines are safe for kids under 2, and half of the physicians said that they were effective in controlling symptoms, despite research indicating otherwise. Regarding these findings, Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the poll and associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School said in a press release, “Physicians are a valuable source of information for parents about this issue, but it appears that physicians are not heeding FDA warnings about OTC cough and cold medicines either. Kids will be safer when parents and doctors are all on the same page in limiting these medicines to older children.”

Plus: Why Kids Get Sicker at Night

Parents, have you ever given your child under age 2 OTC cough or cold medicine? Did you do it despite knowing about the FDA warnings?