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Warning Labels Work – Nov. 12, 2013

In 2007, manufacturers of cough and cold medications voluntarily withdrew products intended for children under two amid concerns that the medicines were being misused and therefore unsafe.  Labels on other medicines were revised to warn parents not to give the medicines to children under four.  

A CDC study now reveals that those warning labels have resulted in a substantial decline in emergency room visits by toddlers and infants with medical issues associated with misuse of these types of medicines.  

The researchers focused on emergency room data gathered from sixty three hospitals between 2004 and 2011. There were roughly 61 thousand visits during that period relating to adverse reactions in children under twelve from cough and cold medications.  Prior to the withdrawal in 2007, children under the age of two accounted for 4.1 percent of visits involving cough and cold medication-related effects.  After the label changes, the number dropped to 2.4 percent.  For two and three year old children, the decline in emergency room visits due to misuse of cough and cold medicines went from 9.5 percent to 6.5 percent.

While the warning labels have assisted parents in proper use of the medications, there is continued misuse resulting from children who are naturally curious and want to sample the medicines that look and taste like candy when their parent’s back is turned.  Parents need to keep the medicines out of the child’s reach.  Some medical professionals have also suggested a review of possible design changes in the packaging and containers themselves to help alleviate unsupervised ingestion.

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