Health Canada recently finished its review of the effectiveness and safety of cough and cold medications for children under the age of 12. Their conclusion? These popular products for the cold season should not be used by children under 6 years of age. So what does this mean? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions.
Non-prescription, or over-the-counter, cough and cold medications have been used by children for a long time, but there is limited evidence supporting the effectiveness of these medications in children. Health Canada made its decision based on many factors:
In 2008, Health Canada mandated manufacturers to re-label non-prescription cough and cold medications that have dosing information for children to include the statement "Do not give to children under 6." These medications also require better labelling for children 6 to 12 years, childproof packaging, and inclusion of a dosing device (such as a measuring cup or spoon) for all liquid forms. Manufacturers had until fall 2009 to comply with the re-labelling requirements. Now, all cough and cold products comply with the standards set out by Health Canada and those that do not have been removed from the market.
Children older than 6 years old can try over-the-counter cough and cold medications, keeping a few things in mind:
No. There is no evidence to show that children who have taken these medications in the past are at risk. The risk to children is only at the time of use.
People may have some cough and cold products with the old labelling in their home already. Parents and caregivers should talk to a health care provider such as a pharmacist or doctor before using these products. These medications can still be used by adults and children 6 and over but not for children under 6. If you will not be using the medication, dispose of the product by returning it to your pharmacy if they have a disposal program in place.
The common cold does not have a cure. The cough and cold medications available are for treating the symptoms only. For children under 6 (and for anyone who has a cold), here are a few ways to get some relief from symptoms:
Keep in mind that symptoms will usually go away in about 6 to 10 days. If they don't, if symptoms worsen, or if your child appears sick and you are worried, consult a health care provider.
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