The Commission On Human Medicines (CHM) has reviewed more than 100 over the counter products used for treating coughs and colds, and recommended that they are no longer given to children under two. Parents of older children will have to ask for them.
Professor Rosalind Smyth, Chair of the CHM Paediatric Medicines Expert Advisory Group said:
The management of symptoms in the under 2s is best achieved with treatment to control fever (ibuprofen or paracetamol), together with simple cough mixtures.
The products include best-selling brands such as Tixylix and Benylin. The CHM has advised parents and carers that nasal saline drops can be used for young babies who have difficulties feeding, and that coughs and colds in babies, although sometimes distressing, will usually get better by themselves.
The Commission added that instructions on medicines should always be followed carefully, and that reports of serious adverse effects are rare.
In fact, none of the remedies has actually been shown to be dangerous when used correctly. However, because different medicines may contain the same active ingredients, giving a child more than one type may lead to a possible overdose. Parents may also be giving their children too much of a medicine by simply miscalculating the dose.
The pharmaceutical industry has also agreed to change the labels on products, removing dosage instructions for those under two, and changing them for children aged between two and six.
There has recently been a similar safety review about children’s cough and cold medicines in the US. It is accepted that the vast majority of problems that occurred there were due to children being given too much medicine.
The cough and cold medicines which will no longer be licensed for children under the age of 2 contain the ingredients:
• brompheniramine, chlorphenamine & diphenhydramine (antihistamines);
• dextromethorphan and pholcodine (antitussives);
• guaifenesin and ipecacuanha (expectorants);
• phenylephrine, pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, oxymetazoline and xylometazoline (decongestants).
The following products directly targeted at children under 2 should be removed from open shelves although they can still be supplied (under the supervision of a pharmacist) for older children.
• Asda Children’s Chesty Cough Syrup [PL 03105/0056 – MAH: Bell’s]
• Boots Chesty Cough Syrup 1 Year Plus [PL 00014/0381 – MAH: Boots]
• Boots Sore Throat and Cough Linctus 1 Year Plus [PL 00014/5152R – MAH: Boots]
• Buttercup Infant Cough Syrup [PL 02855/0022 – MAH: Chefaro]
• CalCough Chesty [PL 15513/0052 – MAH: McNeil]
• Children’s Chesty Cough [PL 03105/0056 – MAH: Bell’s]