New Concern Over Kids' Cough, Cold Meds

stethoscope, and dollar-bill theme Rx symbol, with blue gradient background CBS/AP

Cough and cold medicines for kids -- already under scrutiny by regulators in the United States and Britain -- have come into focus again "across the pond."

Regulators there who looked over evidence about the effectiveness of such pharmaceuticals in kids up to age 12 say their "review found no robust evidence that these medicines work, and they can cause side effects, such as allergic reactions, effects on sleep or hallucinations."

Still, they said, "People using these products for children, or have used them in the past, do not need to worry. Neither do shelves need to be cleared."

Previously, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had advised parents not to give the medicines to kids under two, and questions were raised about giving them to kids up to age 6.

On The Early Show Monday, Dr. Daniel Rauch, a pediatrician, NYU Langone Medical Center, took things even further, telling co-anchor Harry Smith point-blank that, "The medicines don't have any proven effect on children of any age. And the FDA's response last year was take it away from children under two, because of side effects that were much more profound in kids under two. Not that they're not there in older children, just a little less common.

"There should be no side effects acceptable for a medication that doesn't work. Since the cold and cough medicines don't produce any good effects, you shouldn't accept any risk at all for your child. And there's no proven benefit for any of these medications for kids of any age."

So what does he say to parents of kids who come into his office with a cold, but no sinus infection?

"Bear with it for a couple days" Rauch replied. "It will just get better on its own. The tried-and-true benefits of fluid, rest and just keeping clean are the best things you can do."

Not only don't the meds work for kids, Rauch said, they "create a problem, that people think, if a little bit doesn't work, then, 'I'll give some more.' Then, you get into overdose problems. The other thing people do is mix-and-match. A lot of these medications have different ingredients. So people don't realize that they're overdosing their child. But, in fact, when you mix different ingredients, you can have different side effects.

So, Rauch concluded, the best rule of thumb for parents is, "Save the money and spend it on chicken soup!"
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