Kids MD - Cold Med Dangers - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

12/22/04

Kids MD - Cold Med Dangers

Robert Seith | CWK Network

“In general, the younger the child the more risk there is to giving cough and cold medications and the more they should be avoided.”
- Dr. Karen Dewling, pediatrician -

The day after Thanksgiving, 1-year-old Christopher Taylor had a cold and a bad cough. “It was a hacking cough, a very deep cough, and it was non-stop. … It was waking him up when he was sleeping,” says his mom, Elizabeth.

So, she gave him a teaspoon of children’s cold syrup and within 20 minutes, “he became lethargic. He became very listless. I was debating whether or not to take him to the emergency room. His state had changed that drastically,” says Mrs. Taylor.

“Part of the problem is that people give these medications that take care of four different symptoms,” says pediatrician Dr. Karen Dewling. “They may have antihistamine, a pain and fever reducer, something to break up the mucus and something to suppress the cough. I call those multi-side effects medications, not multi-symptom relievers.”

She says decongestants can elevate a child’s blood pressure. And “antihistamines make children very sleepy. And giving too much of that can make them become so sleepy that it could depress their ability to breath,” says Dr. Dewling.

Experts say some children can have a bad reaction to the correct dose, but more often parents accidentally give their child an overdose. “For example, it’s common for cough and cold preparations to have Tylenol or acetaminophen in them. If you give two different preparations that contain both Tylenol and acetaminophen, you could cause an overdose of that and that could be very dangerous,” says Dr. Dewling.

Experts say any cold medications should only be used as a last resort. And even then, as the label says, check with a doctor first if the child is less than 2. “You know it says consult a doctor, but I didn’t think it was that big a deal,” says Mrs. Taylor. “But it is. And I really take it a lot more seriously than I would have in the past.”

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