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10% of U.S. Kids Using Cough Medicine Every Week

Researchers find decongestants and antihistamines taken most often

SATURDAY, May 3, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately one in 10 U.S. children uses one or more cough and cold medications during a given week, according to new research from Boston University.

While cough and cold medications for children are widely marketed in the United States, how frequently they are used had not been scientifically studied. This new finding, from researchers at Boston University's Slone Epidemiology Center, gives increased weight to recent revelations that cough and cold medication use can lead to serious adverse effects, including death.

"Given concerns about potential harmful effects and lack of evidence proving that these medications are effective in young children, the fact that 1-in-10 U.S. children is using one of these medications is striking," study author Dr. Louis Vernacchio, an assistant professor of epidemiology and pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

Yet, the researchers also reported positive news in children's use of cough syrup and other drugs. The overall use of cough and cold medications declined from 12.3 percent in 1999-2000 to 8.4 percent in 2005-2006, they found.

The findings were scheduled to be presented Saturday at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Honolulu.

Researchers analyzed data gathered between 1999 and 2006 through a national telephone survey and considered all oral medicines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat children's coughs and colds.

In any given week, 10.1 percent of U.S. children took at least one cough and cold medication, the researchers found. In terms of active ingredients, most used were decongestants and antihistamines (6.3 percent each), followed by anti-cough medicines (4.1 percent) and expectorants (1.5 percent).

Children aged 2 to 5 used the medications most often, but the rate was also high among those younger than 2.

More information

The American Association of Pediatrics has more about cold remedies for children.

SOURCE: Boston University, news release, May 3, 2008
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