Dr. Alanna Levine explains the dangers.
Dr. Alanna Levine: A 7-month-old baby died after accidentally being given children's cold medicine instead of infant cold medicine.
A tragedy such as this one is a sad reminder of the importance of following the recommended medication dosing instructions on the package. Labels must be read carefully. Parents need to be aware that even widely used over-the-counter medications are still MEDICATIONS with potential side effects and even toxicity if used incorrectly.
The parents of this infant who received a toxic dose of cold medication are not alone. A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that many parents are confused by product labels, and even if a label reads, "Consult your doctor for children under the age of 2," parents still thought the medication was safe for infants.
An estimated 7,000 children under the age of 12 are treated in hospital emergency departments each year from ingestions of cold and cough medication, and over 100 children have died from them in the past 40 years.
In 2007, the FDA recommended the removal of all infant cough and cold preparations from the shelves. Studies have shown that they aren't particularly effective in relieving symptoms, and clearly they can be dangerous.
So, what can parents do for their children under 2 (and many pediatricians like myself would argue that this is true for children up to 4) with cough and cold symptoms? The safest and most effective strategies are:
1. Put a humidifier in the bedroom.
2. Use normal saline nose drops and a nasal aspirator for congestion.
3. Encourage fluids.
4. Use a fever reducer like ibuprofen or acetaminophen for fever.
5. Always check with your pediatrician before giving your children medication, even if it is an over-the-counter preparation.
|Dr. Alanna Levine is a pediatrician in private practice and on staff at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center, where she attends high risk deliveries and cares for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. She is a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and frequently appears on television as a medical expert. Dr. Levine lives in New York with her husband and their two children.|