Friday, January 18, 2008

Why Do We Even Have Cold Medicine?

This is a continuation of my erratic series of posts tackling the really controversial issues in our society. (Note the sarcasm.) Praise God, we're all healthy here right now.

But I really am annoyed about cold medicine. I prefer not to take it, myself. I believe that my body is producing all the excess snot because it's trying to clear out the virus. I believe that if I suffer few a few bad days, I'll be through with the cold sooner. But sometimes that's not an option. Sometimes, I really really just need to sleep or function at a higher level, and I've been known to take a little cold medicine on those occasions.

It's worse with my kids. They don't understand what's going on when they're sick, and they can't force themselves to sleep when they feel awful. Nor can they do some of the things I do to help when I have a bad cold, like sipping on scalding hot water or sucking on sugar free hard candy as I try to fall asleep with a tickle in my throat.

We're so so fortunate that both girls have been healthy this year (knock wood!). But there have been times when Ellie's had such a bad cold that she can't breathe well, such a bad cough that she can't sleep for days and nights at a time.

It's easy for "officials" to say that children don't need cold medicine, but if they don't, do adults? Why are we expecting more of our youngest children than we expect of ourselves? I hope that no one involved in this decision by the FDA allows themselves any OTC cold medicines for the next several years as an act of penance.

I don't care that some studies show little improvement of symptoms with some cold medicines; I know what does work for my child. I know what I can safely give her that will help dry out her nose or quiet her coughing for a few hours so that she can sleep at night.

Because these risks they speak of? When we you really drill down into it, it turns out that the risks are mostly from parents over-dosing their kids. Parents don't realize that there's Tylenol in Tylenol Cold & Cough and double up doses of both. Yeah, that's terrible and dangerous and it sucks.

But the answer isn't to get rid of the medicines! It's better packaging, better education, better front-line training by pediatricians, etc.

Because it's not like removing medicines from the shelves is going to make things better. When parents are exhausted in the middle of the night, some are going to reach for their own cold and cough remedies to help their kids sleep. And that is absolutely not safe.

And if they come around later, trying to take away my Concentrated Infant Motrin Drops (Dye-Free) I'll pop 'em in the nose. You try living with a teething toddler whose pain you know you can sooth with a little droplet of ibuprofen. She looks up at you with this betrayal in her eyes, which are clearly saying, "Why are you doing this to me, Mommy? It hurts! Make it better!" It makes me much more understanding of the grandparents who reminisce about rubbing brandy onto babies' gums.

There's no evidence that these oral drugs actually ease cold symptoms in children so young - some studies suggest they do no good at all. And while serious side effects are fairly rare, they do occur. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year reported that more than 1,500 babies and toddlers wound up in emergency rooms over a two-year period because of the drugs.

"It's one thing if you're curing cancer, but we're talking about a self-limiting illness," said Sharfstein. "If there's really no evidence of benefit, you don't want to risk the rare problem. Then you're left with tragedy that you can't justify."

. . .

Last October, CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews reported that the cold and cough medicine industry admitted that 92 deaths were connected to combination cold medicines - but claimed 79 of them were due to misuse or overdose.

Health groups acknowledge that while low doses of cold medicine don't usually endanger an individual child, the bigger risk is unintentional overdose. For example, the same decongestants, cough suppressants and antihistamines are in multiple products, so using more than one to address different symptoms - or having multiple caregivers administer doses - can quickly add up. Also, children's medicines are supposed to be measured with the dropper or measuring cap that comes with each product, not an inaccurate kitchen teaspoon.


Amanda said...

Yes, it's much better to allow my child to develop an ear infection than to treat the sinus drainage. What a crock! I am all for not overmedicating. At one point my doctors had me on 4 different prescription drugs. I quit all of them and felt better than I had in a long time. I don't regret giving my children cold and cough medicine when they were babies. I read the labels and there are warnings against giving other medication that contained pain reliever. I would only give my children one medicine at a time unless advised by a doctor anyway. You are absolutely right to be offended as an adult for the FDA to treat us like children. One of the things that I appreciate about the culture here in England is that they treat adults like adults when we treat adults like children. It is very tragic to have deaths related to medication. I understand the alarm especially in light of some medications being released that truly were deadly. But let's look at the true problem. It's not that the children are dying because of the medication but because of the amount of medication. Maybe that should be part of the child birthing class that most new parents attend. Education is always a greater weapon against such deaths than taking away the medicine. You take away dangerous toys from babies and toddlers. You teach older children about the danger of putting toys in their mouths.

Just my two cents. Great commentary by the way.

ccw said...

I was amazed that the last time I was at the pediatrician he actually suggested medicine for a cough. In all the years I have had children, it has always been don't bother with cough medicine because it doesn't work.

However, the doctor suggested Mucinex. He said it seems to be helpful. I bought some and was very pleased with the relief it brought NSBH.

Now, I wish he would be more generous with the antibiotics when I know Nonami has an ear infection even if it doesn't appear to be the case. Poor guy has to live in misery until he ruptures; which is every.single.time he has an ear infection.

Tracie said...

When this came up recently I thought of the time my son was about a year old and had a bad cold. His pediatrician had said she wasn't "a fan" of cold meds for kids his age so I was giving him Tylenol or Motrin per her instructions. So I let him cough and finally he coughed so hard he threw up all over himself, and after cleaning him and myself up, I gave him some cough medicine and we both slept comfortably the rest of the night, and I thought, so much for that! I really hate this "throw the baby out with the bath water" approach we take when issues develop with medications. I've always given my kids cold medicine (in the proper amount -- imagine that) to ease their symptoms, and am just glad they are both over 100 lbs and can take small amounts of adult meds now that this whole issue has come up. So stupid.

deb said...

Yes, these same idiots who don't want us giving our kids cold medicine want us to believe that it's also perfectly safe to inject aluminum, mercury, formaldahyde and cells from aborted human fetuses into our children via the perfectly safe pediatric vaccine program.

Seriously, why don't they just come into our homes via webcam and raise our children for us? Why is it that those of us who actually take the time to read the directions and understand the labels on OTC drugs have to have our children suffer to protect the ignorant ones from overdosing their children?

Not to mention, the absolute hoops one must jump through to buy adult cold medicine now... giving name, rank and serial number with just a single perchase to prove I'm not cooking meth in my shed.

Not that I'm irate or anything, lol.

Sarahlynn said...

I'm glad to hear that I have company in this boat!

Tracey said...

This is a huge hotbutton for me too. We are a family that believes in medicating when it can help, and not overmedicating. We read labels. We use appropriate instruments to measure ingredients. We do not go willy nilly giving meds indiscriminantly. But because some people are dumb, they're going to yank them off the market? Goodness! Yet another instance of big brother to the rescue...gosh, thank you government for protecting my children from me! *snort*