Guest Post: Parents Still Dosing Toddlers With OTC Drugs—Study Says Yes

Monday, February 28, 2011

My son came down with a bad cold in the days leading up to his big 2nd birthday. It was rough seeing the little guy with the running nose, watery eyes and horrible-sounding cough. The only upside—if you can call it that—was that the cold didn’t affect his sleep. He continued with hearty (some even longer) naps and had no problems at night.

I’ve heard other parents talking about their under-the-weather little ones not sleeping and melting down at night. You’ve gotta feel for them, too. These parents, sick with worry, exhaustion and frustration, just riding things out.

I was talking to Hayley Krischer, a mom of two who’s in our Music Together class, about the sick toddler thing. Hayley’s a freelance writer whose work you may have read in places like Parents magazine, Babble.com and on her own blog. So, do the math here …  writer mom + interesting parenting topic = great guest post.

Thanks, Hayley.

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Parents Still Dosing Toddlers With OTC Drugs—Study Says Yes

By Hayley Krischer

Years ago, when I’d call my son Jake’s pediatrician because of a fever, runny nose and general sickyness, she’d casually prescribe a concoction of a few over-the-counter remedies. Dimetapp to dry him up and for sleep. Delsym to stop the cough in the middle of the night. Tylenol to bring down the fever and then some Motrin to top it off. He was about 18 months old when I stocked up on these miracle cures, especially the Dimetapp which my doc promised would “put him out for the night.” What else could a parent of a sick child ask for?

But that was during the OTC-drugs-for-toddlers-are-fine heyday of 2004, and since then a lot has changed.

By 2008, the FDA decided that the OTC drugs for toddlers led to poisoning or death and they stopped recommending them. Even my doc, a prescribe-a-cough-over-the-phone kind of practitioner followed the FDA’s lead and instructed me to stick to the oldies but goodies—Tylenol and Motrin—for my daughter who is almost two.

I followed the rules because it seemed simple enough. Sleep was great, yes, but not worth it if my child’s health was in jeopardy.

But not everyone is sticking to the doctors’ orders. According to a new poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, 61 percent of parents are still giving their six-month to two-year-olds OTC cold meds.

Look, I’m on the side of every parent that wants their child to sleep through the night—especially when they’re sick. A cranky, snotty, sleep-deprived child makes for a cranky parent. And every one knows how it works in the house with a sick child. Once the kid is sick, everyone gets it.

Just two weeks ago, my 23-month-old daughter had a virus. It started when her fever spiked at 103.5 and then ended in an ear infection. We used the old Motrin-Tylenol combo to keep the fever down, and then zythromax to fight the ear infection (she’s allergic to amoxicillin). My doctor suggested Zyrtec, an anti-histamine to drain the ear. Seemed like a lot of meds, so erred on the side of caution and waited until the fever went down to start dosing the Zyrtec.

It’s two weeks later and, ugh, she’s got another runny nose. After reading about this poll, I’m tempted to invest in a bottle of Dimetapp and be done with another week of wiping away green goop from her nose. Yet my inner holistic doctor is telling me that plugging up a runny nose isn’t the answer. After all, isn’t the purpose of a runny nose to rid of germs?

So, I’ll try another OTC remedy that the FDA doesn’t object to—something homeopathic like the impossible-to-pronounce Oscillococcinum. Does it work? I just started giving it to my daughter today. All that’s left to do now is keep my fingers crossed.

We’d like to hear from you, parents. Are you OK with giving your wee ones a sip of something from cold & flu aisle at the pharmacy?


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