Parents' Views Of OTC Cold, Cough Medications For Children

Armen Hareyan's picture

Anew survey from NPR, the Kaiser FamilyFoundation and the Harvard School of Public Health examined parents' views in light ofrecent concerns about the safety and effectiveness of giving over-the-countercold and cough medications to children, NPR's "Morning Edition"reports. An FDA advisory committee in October recommended thatdrug makers stop marketing OTC cold medications for use in children under agesix. The recommendation came after six clinical trials by a group ofpediatricians showed that OTC cold medications are no more effective than aplacebo in relieving cold symptoms. About three children die each year aftertaking cold medications, and the deaths have been linked to potentialoverdoses, according to "Morning Edition."

Eighty-six percent of parents are aware of the safety concerns with themedications, the survey said. According to the survey, 58% of parents think OTCcold and cough medications are "somewhat safe" for children betweenages two and six, while 23% of parents believe the medications are "verysafe" (Aubrey, "Morning Edition," NPR, 12/13).

The survey indicates that many parents are not sure whether they shouldcontinue to use cold and cough medications for their children under age six. Accordingto the survey:

  • 34% of parents with children under age six said they have at least temporarily stopped using OTC cold and cough medications since concerns about the treatments arose;

  • 15% of parents with children ages two to six say they plan to stop using such medications;

  • 30% of such parents said they plan to continue to use the treatments; and


  • 28% of parents with pre-elementary school children said they have not decided what to do, and other parents responded that they were not aware of the recent safety concerns or had never given their children OTC cold and cough medications.

The surveyalso looked at who parents trust when making decisions about the safety of OTCcold and cough medications in their children. According to the survey 71% ofparents with children under age six trust pediatricians "a lot," whilehalf of parents said they have confidence in pharmacists. Finally, only 29% ofsuch parents said they have a lot of trust in FDA (NPR/Kaiser FamilyFoundation/Harvard School of Public Health joint release, 12/13).

Sixty-two percent of parents with children under age six said their doctor hasrecommended using OTC cold or cough medicines for their children ("MorningEdition," NPR, 12/13).

The survey was conducted by telephone from Nov. 15 to Nov. 25 and includesresponses from 1,522 adults, with an oversample of parents with young children. The survey has a marginof sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for the full sampleand plus or minus five percentage points for parents with young children(NPR/Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard School of Public Health joint release,12/13).

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