According to a new government study, fewer children are ending up in the emergency room since more restrictions were put in place for cold and cough medicine for kids. Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a pediatrician at the Everett Clinic, explains more.

Tell us about these warnings, and how effective they are.

We ve known for a long time that over-the-counter medicine isn t really effective for helping children fight colds. I usually say under age six, but we have a lot of data that says under age 4, over-the-counter cold medicines don t do a lot of good. Back in 2007, the medicine companies voluntarily withdrew their products for young babies. One year later, a warning label went on these drugs, saying don t use these medicines in kids under age four. Since these medicines are often combinations, there was a risk of side effects and overdoses.

So did these warnings work in keeping kids out of the hospital?

Pediatric researchers published a study tracking the number of emergency room visits for cold medicine overdoses between 2004 and 2011. For babies under two, their visits went down by over half. Before the labels, one in every ten emergency room visits for children between two and three years old would be for overdoses, and now it s down to six percent. So, they have been pretty effective.

What can parents do, and what else can fight colds?

Between 60 and 80 percent of these visits were for unsupervised ingestion, so keeping these medicines out of reach is very important. They taste sweet and are attractive to young children. The good news is that children s immune systems fight off colds very well. Kids get 8-10 coughs per year. In children over one, honey can help fight a cold. As always, check in with a doctor if things aren t getting better.

Resource links:

Pediatrics study of cough and cold medicine

Dosing Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen

American Academy of Pediatrics info on children and colds

The science of Vick's Vapor Rub

The difference between sinusitis and a cold

More about Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson: Facebook | Twitter:@SeattleMamaDoc | Read her Blog

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