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Infant cold medications: what do I need to know?

Most paediatricians advise against giving infants and young children over-the-counter cough and cold medications. Some doctors believe that the medications just aren't effective and others are concerned that the risk of side effects is simply too great.

The Medicine and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK has banned the sale of over the counter cough and cold medicines for infants and young children under the age of 2 as a precautionary measure against accidental overdose in response to an increase in reports of adverse reactions linked to overdose in infants and young children. Small children and infants are more at risk of overdose because of their smaller body size and how their kidneys and liver process the medications.

The ban concerns 12 active ingredients: brompheniramine, chlorphenamine, dextromethorphan, diphenhydramine, ephedrine, guaifenesin, ipecacuanha, phenylephrine, pholcodine, pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, and xylometazoline.

Keep in mind that most problems with cold medicines (or any medications for that matter) occur when more than the recommended amount is used, if it is given too frequently, or if more than one medication containing the same active ingredient are being used at the same time.

As always, it is best to talk with your paediatrician before giving any medication to an infant, even if they are readily available without a prescription. Discuss what the appropriate amount and frequency of the dosage and most importantly, what is the medication you will be giving, and will it react with any other medications being given?

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