Physician and parent response to the FDA advisory about use of over-the-counter cough and cold medications

Acad Pediatr. Jan-Feb 2010;10(1):64-9. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2009.07.002. Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the likely impact of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory not to use over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products for children aged <2 years on care provided by pediatricians and parents.

Methods: A mailed survey was completed by 105 community pediatricians (53% response rate), and 1265 parents with children aged <12 years completed a self-administered survey while waiting for an office visit.

Results: All physicians were aware of the advisory; 75% agreed with it. Fifty-nine percent did not recommend OTC cough and cold products for children aged <2 years before the advisory, and 35% were less likely to do so afterward. Seventy-three percent of parents were aware of the advisory, 70% believed these products relieved symptoms, 68% did not believe they were dangerous, and 74% had them at home. After the advisory, 21% of parents were more likely to request an antibiotic from the doctor. Among the parents, 225 only had children aged <2 years and 695 only had children aged 2 to 11 years; of these parental groups, 53% and 10% of parents, respectively, did not use these products before the advisory, an additional 33% and 28%, respectively, were less likely to do so afterward, and 15% and 61%, respectively, would continue use them.

Conclusions: Pediatricians must be prepared for requests from parents for antibiotics and other remedies for symptom relief for their children with colds. As no effective alternatives are available, maybe nontreatment should be promoted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Missouri
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Physicians / psychology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Respiratory System Agents / therapeutic use*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Respiratory System Agents