ATLANTA — Cough and cold medicines send about 7,000 children to hospital emergency rooms each year, the U.S. government said Monday in its first national estimate.
About two-thirds of the cases were children who took the medicines unsupervised. However, about one-quarter involved cases in which parents gave the proper dosage and an allergic reaction or some other problem developed, the study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
Nearly two-thirds of the cases involved kids ages 2 to 5, the CDC found.
The study included both over-the-counter and prescription medicines. Less than two weeks after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned parents that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are too dangerous for children younger than 2.
“The main message is no medication left in the hands of a 3-year-old is safe,” said the CDC’s Dr. Melissa Schaefer.
CDC researchers gathered case reports of children 11 and under who had taken cough and cold medications and wound up in 63 hospitals studied in 2004 and 2005. They used that number to come up with the national estimate.
About 1,600 of the estimated 7,100 children are under 2, so the FDA’s guidance, if followed, should reduce such ER cases by 23 percent.
For the children whose symptoms were reported, allergic reactions like hives and itching were most common, and neurological symptoms such as drowsiness and unsteady walking were next, she said.