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Tylenol Recall: Alternatives to OTC Cough and Cold Meds in Children

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

Poor quality of children’s Tylenol, Motrin, Zyrtec and Benadryl liquid cold and allergy medications has prompted a recall of the products by the manufacturer of the over the counter medications, McNeil Consumer Healthcare. The liquid Tylenol and other kid’s allergy medicines could have higher amounts of the active ingredient or may contain “particles” according to McNeil. The recall leaves parents wondering what alternatives exist to over the counter cough and cold medicines for children. No adverse events have been reported, and the recall is a precaution.

Did you know about these past Tylenol recalls?

* Children's and Infants' Tylenol Recall Underway
* McNeil TYLENOL Arthritis Pain Caplets
* Johnson & Johnson Announces Infant Tylenol Recall

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Over the counter children’s allergy medications have been under scrutiny by the FDA since 2008 because of their potential harm to children. The current Tylenol recall, that is not the first, may leave parents in a quandary. Parents are advised to stop giving the over the counter cold and allergy products to their children due to poor quality, but experts say giving allergy and cold medicines to children is never a good idea and could harm children.

A commentary in the May 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery warns that "Parents may administer these products to children with good intentions, as they are medications that are widely used to treat adults with upper respiratory conditions. Data supporting their efficacy, however, do not exist. Evidence does exist of the potential for significant harm from use of these products in young children." The comment comes from David E. Tunkel, MD, and just in time to give parents needed information in light of the newest Tylenol and other children’s liquid medicine recall.’

Parents should always follow the advice of their child’s physician for treating colds and allergies. Alternatives to cough and cold medications include using normal saline, nasal suctioning, and humidification that are conservative measures for treating runny stuffy noses and upper respiratory symptoms associated with colds and allergies in children. A 2007 study also shows that honey is very effective for calming cough in children.

The authors suspect tighter regulation from the FDA of over the counter cold and allergy medicines marketed for children in the future, given the potential harm that can come from inappropriate use and lack of evidence supporting cold and allergy medications for children. Past findings show that most parents have little understanding about the labeling of kids' medications sold over the counter. The current recall includes children’s and infant’s Tylenol and Motrin, and Children’s Zyrtec, and Benadryl. The authors also point out that now is an opportune time for physicians to educate parents about alternatives to giving over the counter medications to children for allergies and colds.

McNeil Product Recall
Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgerydoi:10.1016/j.otohns.2010.01.019



This article was not at all helpful. I was looking for alternative children's pain relievers, and found nothing. I already knew that cough and allergy remedies are not a good idea for small children, but sometimes you really do need a pain reliever or fever reducer. What are the alternatives to the McNeil products for these?