Cough, cold medicines often given to children younger than 4, poll finds

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Many parents give young children medicines for cough and cold that they shouldn't use, according to a new poll by the University of Michigan.

According to the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, more than 40% of parents reported giving cough medicine or multisymptom cough-cold medicine to children younger than 4, while 25% gave those children decongestants. The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2008 that such OTC medicines shouldn't be used in infants and children younger than 2, and experts say they haven't been proven safe or effective in young children.

"These products don't reduce the time the infection will last, and misuse could lead to serious harm," Matthew Davis, director of the poll program, said. "What can be confusing, however, is that often these products are labeled prominently as 'children's' medications. The details are often on the back of the box, in small print. That's where parents are caregivers can find instructions that they should not be used in children under 4 years old."