Parents continue to give cough and cold medicines to infants despite warnings from FDA

More than half of parents continue to give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children under the age of 2, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that the medications are not effective and that they have poisoned or killed hundreds of children, according to a new poll released Tuesday by C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, Mich. Surprisingly, more than half of physicians also told parents that the drugs were effective, despite evidence to the contrary, the poll found.

The FDA warned about the medications in 2008, which prompted a voluntary recall of many of the products. “We wanted to see how well parents and physicians were adopting those recommendations,” said Dr. Matthew Davis, director of the hospital’s National Poll on Children’s Health and an associate professor at the University of Michigan Medical School. “Unfortunately, this latest poll indicates that the FDA warnings have gone unheeded by the majority of parents and, surprisingly, many physicians.”

Within the last year, according to the poll, 61% of parents with children ages 2 and under had given their children such medications. Usage was highest among blacks (80%) and lowest among Caucasians (57%). Usage was also highest (80%) among families with an income of less than $30,000 and lowest (41%) among families with an income of $100,000 or more.

Two-thirds of the parents reported wanting their children to be able to sleep better at night or to be more comfortable during the day; 57% said having their child’s doctor recommend the medicine was very important.


“Physicians are a valuable source of information for parents about this issue, but it appears that physicians are not heeding warnings about OTC cough and cold medicines either,” Davis said. “Kids will be safer when parents and doctors are all on the same page in limiting these medicines to older children.”