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Study: Children's ER Visits Down After Cold Medicine Recalls

In October 2007, manufacturers of over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for the very youngest of children voluntarily withdrew all such products from store shelves after numerous complaints that the products posed a safety risk to infants and children. Pediatricians stated that the products were ineffective in young children, and were prone to accidental overdoses resulting in extreme drowsiness, an increased heart rate, and even deaths. Seeking to avoid products liability lawsuits and bad press, manufacturers voluntarily took cough and cold medicines, mostly syrups, off the shelves.

According to a recently released study, this was a good move: the number of emergency room visits that were related to the use of cough and cold medicines in young children decreased by more than half. To reach this result, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared the nonfatal ER visits made to 67 nationally representative hospitals both 14 months before and 14 months after the voluntary withdrawal of cold medicines. These nonfatal visits made by children younger than two because of bad reactions to cough and cold medicines dropped from 2,790 in the 14 months before the withdrawal to 1,248 in the 14 months after the withdrawal.

However, the CDC says, an alarming fact discovered in the study was in relation to children's access to cold medicines already in their home. Two-thirds of nonfatal ER visits both before and after the recall involved children taking the pharmaceutical products on their own, without parent approval, which researchers say indicates the need for more effective childproof containers.

According to researcher Dr. Daniel Budnitz, the study has one main message for parents: "Keep all medicines up and away and out of sight," he said.

Source: Associated Press, "Kids' ER visits fell after cold medicines' removal", 22 November 2010

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