5-Year-Old Colorado Girl Dies of Cough Medicine Overdose

Kimber Michelle Brown had two and half times the dosage in her system.

ByABC News
April 16, 2012, 4:22 PM

April 17, 2012— -- A Colorado girl is dead after taking a lethal combination of two common cold and allergy medicines, and Colorado authorities are investigating her grandmother, who was looking after the tiny 5-year-old.

Kimber Michelle Brown was spending the night with her 59-year-old grandmother, Linda Sheets, at the time of her death on Feb. 12. Sheets was reportedly treating the girl for flu-like symptoms.

The coroner's report, which came out this week, ruled the overdose was accidental, caused by dextromethorphan, an ingredient commonly used in cough syrup. Kimber's blood levels were two and a half times higher than the recommended dosage.

She also had higher than therapeutic levels of cetirizine, which is the main ingredient in the allergy medicine Zyrtec.

Kimber's parents, Raelyn Anderson-Brown and Mike Brown, live in Durango, Colo., which is about nine miles from Hermosa, where she died.

Investigators say Sheets, who is Anderson-Brown's mother, may not have measured the medicine properly, or the child may have also taken some herself.

Now, the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office is investigating whether criminal charges will be filed, according to the Durango Herald, although police have said so far there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

"I consider it a certified combination of drugs, with the dextromethorphan being the highest level," La Plata County Coroner Dr. Carol Huser told ABCNews.com.

Combining the two depressants produced a greater toxicity than each drug would have caused alone, she said.

Blood levels were taken several hours after the child's death. Those were the only drugs in the girl's system, except for some that the medic administered "to try to save her," said Huser.

The toxicology report showed that the little girl, who weighed only 46 pounds, had 96 nanograms per millilitre of dextromethorphan in her blood. The upper limit for this drug in adults is 40 ng/ml.

Kimber also had 490 ng/ml of cetirizine in her system. A normal dosage would be between 271 and 352 ng/ml.

Huser said he had never seen a death from these medications before, but warned about the dangers of over-the-counter medicines.

"As a society in general, we are way too dependent on drugs -- we take them as knee-jerk reaction and it's not wise," she said.

As for the criminal charges against the family, Huser said, "I can't speak for the state attorney general, but it's highly unlikely."

"I have no reason to suspect any ill intent," Huser wrote in the toxicology report. "The degree of negligence in either measuring an inappropriate dose or leaving medications within reach of a child does not, in my view, rise to the level I require for a certification of homicide."