Cough and Cold Remedies for Young Children

March 2, 2007 — -- For many parents, it can seem like an easy fix for a young children crying out during the night -- give them a dropper full of cold medicine.

But now doctors worry that cold and cough medicines for children under age 6 may be ineffective and life threatening, as they have been found to lead to hallucinations, seizures and heart problems, according to a 2005 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A group of doctors has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration, which has begun a review of these products, which were not specifically evaluated for safety and effectiveness in young children. The FDA frequently uses adult data for children, who are given different dosage guidelines.

The doctors will tell you there are no safe cold medicines for young children. Motrin is safe, but not products that include antihistamine, expectorant, cough suppressant, decongestant or a mix of those ingredients.

However, the industry says the cold and cough medicines are safe when used according to the proper recommended dosage. The Consumer HealthCare Products Association issued a statement saying, "These medicines have been found safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are the same medicines that families have safely relied upon for decades to help relieve cough and cold symptoms and make their children feel better."

It added it welcomed the opportunity to work with the FDA to ensure consumers have safe and effective medicines.

Guidance for Parents

Children typically catch eight to 10 colds in their first two years of life, according to the American Pediatrics Association. For those under 3 months old, they advise calling a pediatrician at the first sign of illness, as colds at that age can lead to more serious ailments.

When kids under the age of 6 come down with a cold or cough, the CDC and APA offering the following guidance:

Talk to your pediatrician

If you are going to use any cold or cough medicine for a child under age 6, follow the dosage directions.

The CDC also recommends reading product labels to avoid products with pseudoephedrine.

When checking the product labels, be careful to not accidentally administer two medications that contain the same active ingredient, as this could unwittingly lead to an overdose.

Place a cool mist humidifier in the child's room

Use saline nose drops to soften secretions

Caregivers can clear nasal decongestion in infants using a rubber suction bulb.

ABC News' Kate Snow contributed to this report.