Parents: Will you give your kids OTC cough & cold meds to combat flu season?

With flu season underway, parents might be stocking their medicine cabinets with over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications in case their children come down with an illness. But for young children age 2 and under, these medicines have been linked to serious side effects – including death. That’s why the FDA recommends that OTC cough and cold products not be used in infants and children under age 2.

In a 2011 National Poll on Children’s Health, we asked parents of children age 6 months to 2 years whether they had given their children OTC cough and cold products within the last 12 months. Overall, 61% of parents of children under age 2 had given their child an OTC cough and cold medication during the previous year. Use of these medicines was different by race/ethnicity:

  • 80% of black parents reported giving their child an OTC cough and cold product.
  • 69% of Hispanic parents reported using these medicines for their children.
  • 57% of white parents said they had given their child an OTC cough and cold medicine.

We also asked parents about factors that played into their decision about giving their young child OTC cough and cold products. Two-thirds of parents responded that helping the child sleep better and be more comfortable during the day were “very important” reasons. More than half (56%) of parents said having their child’s health care provider recommend the medicine was very important. Read the full report: Despite warnings, parents continue to use cough & cold medicines for young kids.

Although the FDA has issued warnings about the use of OTC cough and cold medicines in children age 2 and under, in our 2011 NPCH Report, many parents still admitted to using them – and about half of parents said their children’s health care provider gave the OK. This could mean that information about the FDA warnings has been slow to reach both parents and providers or that parents might be misunderstanding health care provider recommendations. Whatever the reason, it’s important that providers and parents work together to keep kids safe and healthy – even if that means fighting through the discomfort of mild cold and flu symptoms until they pass on their own.

Do you have a young child age 2 and under? What has your experience been with battling the flu bug? Have you turned to OTC medications to get by? Let us know in the comments.