Study suggests cold, cough drugs send 7,000 kids to EDs annually

From EM Today:

The CBS Evening News (1/28, story 8, 1:30, Couric) reported that cough and cold medicines “send about 7,000 children under the age of 12 to the” ED “every year,” according to a study conducted by the CDC and published online in the journal Pediatrics 

For the study, researchers looked at “data collected by a nationwide drug safety surveillance system that gathers information from 63 emergency rooms to provide a representative sampling of adverse drug events,” according to the  Washington Post (1/29, A3, Stein). The researchers were able to “identify[y] 301 cases between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2005,” which, “[e]xtrapolated nationwide,…works out to 7,091 cases a year.” The researchers found that “[c]old and cough drugs account for 5.7 percent of all medicine-related visits to the emergency room by children younger than 12.” While “93 percent of the cases did not require the children to be hospitalized,” approximately “7 percent required additional treatment.” In the majority of cases, “the researchers were unable to determine what symptoms the children experienced.” However, “in those cases where that information was available, 19 percent had allergic reactions, and 13 percent had neurological symptoms such as sleepiness or problems walking.”  

The AP (1/29, Stobbe) added that approximately 66 percent “of the cases were children who took the medicines unsupervised,” but approximately 25 percent “involved cases in which parents gave the proper dosage and an allergic reaction or some other problem developed,” according to the researchers. The study’s lead author, Dr. Melissa Schaefer of the CDC, as saying that “[f]or the children whose symptoms were reported, allergic reactions like hives and itching were most common, and neurological symptoms like drowsiness and unsteady walking were next.” The researchers said that “[m]ost of the medicines involved were liquid combinations of cough and cold treatments.”  

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