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FDA: Careful with the kid meds

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Kai Ryssdal: If you’ve ever been up in the middle of the night with a sick infant or toddler, you know how tempting it is to want to give the kid some medicine just so everybody can get some sleep. If you haven’t been there, trust me, it’s tempting.

But the Food and Drug Administration is warning parents not to give cough or cold medicines to children under 2 unless a doctor tells them to. The recommendation comes after a campaign by pediatricians who’ve treated overdoses of cold remedies you can find on the shelves of most drug stores.

From the Marketplace Health Desk at WGBH in Boston, Helen Palmer has more.

Helen Palmer: When they grab that cough syrup for their sick kid, most parents probably don’t read the label on the back.

But Dan Fratterelli of the American Academy of Pediatrics says some active chemicals in these common medicines can be deadly.

Dan Fratterelli: Pseudoephedrine, for example, would be available as Sudafed among other things. Diphenhydramine as Benadryl.

Fratterelli says an excess dose of pseudoephedrine can overstimulate the heart, and diphenhydramine is a sedative. But he stresses that at the proper dosage for kids over 6, there’s no danger.

The makers of these medicines are represented by the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. Its president is Linda Suydam.

Linda Suydam: Parents have relied on these for many years. They rely on them because they work, they’re safe if used as directed. Millions of parents have used them.

But pediatrician Dan Fratterelli says even though millions of parents have used them, that doesn’t make them effective.

Fratterelli: The data that we have on them shows that they don’t work — at least in terms of controlling cough and cold symptoms.

An expert FDA panel will review these issues in October.

In Boston, I’m Helen Palmer for Marketplace.

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