It is cold and flu season. Before you give your child with special needs cough medicine consider the following. Children with special needs frequently do not metabolize medications, even over the counter products, the same as their typcial peers, as a result of underlying physical, neurologic, immune or metabolic conditions. A recent report as to the risks of cough and cold medicines for younger children should especially be heeded for parents of children with special needs even if they are chronologically older per the packaging directions. These risks are in addtion to the body of research that some children with special needs are at heightened risk from serotonin inhibitors or SSRIs.
During years 2004-2005 an estimated 1,519 infants under the age of two were treated in U.S. emergency rooms for ailments related to bad side effects of cold and cough medicines. Even scarier, in 2005 three infants aged six months or younger died and the underlying cause of death was found to be cold and cough medicines. As a result of these alarming statistics the Food and Drug Administration has issued an advisory to parents to never give cold and cough medicines to children under the age of two, unless instructed to do so by a doctor. As explained in the New York Times the FDA will convene a panel on October 18 to determine if more warnings are necessary. The medications currently tell parents not to give to children under the age of two unless recommended by a doctor, but too many parents are failing to heed this warning and more drastic measures may need to be taken.
The trouble begins when cold and cough medicines affect the heart's electrical system leading to arrythmias, or effect the blood vessels, or lead to high blood pressure or stroke. These things are typically seen in high doses, but in rare cases have been seen with regular doses.
The most important thing for parents to do before giving a child medication is read the label, know what the drug is, how to use it, and what side effects to look for explains the acting director for The FDA Office of Drug Evalution III. If the label doesn't include a pediatric dose that doesn't necessarily mean the medicine is safe for anyone under the age of twelve. Keep in mind that drugs affect children differently than they affect adults.