Survey in the emergency department of parents' understanding of cough and cold medication use in children younger than 2 years

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2012 Sep;28(9):883-5. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182676518.


Objectives: In August 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a public health advisory recommending that over-the-counter cough and cold medications (CCMs) not be used in children younger than 2 years. Our objective was to assess parents' awareness and understanding of the guidelines.

Methods: We surveyed caregivers of children younger than 2 years in the emergency department of an urban tertiary care military hospital where civilian patients are also treated. After completing the survey, caregivers received a handout explaining the FDA's recommendations.

Results: Our response rate was 99% (264/265). First-time parents constituted 45% (114/251) of responders. Education level was high school, 21%; some college, 36%; and college graduate, 40%. Thirty-one percent (77/247) were aware of the FDA guidelines. Of these 77, 44 (57%) reported the guidelines indicated CCMs were not safe in children younger than 2 years, and 18 (23%) said CCMs have caused death. Twenty-six percent (68/264) did not give CCMs to their children younger than 2 years, and 40% of these reported it was because of learning about the guidelines; 63% (165/264) reported CCMs were effective, 11% ineffective, and 27% did not know. Fifty-seven percent (151/263) reported CCMs were safe, 12% unsafe, and 31% unsure. Twenty-two percent (31/143) planned to use or continue to use CCMs in their children, 34% did not, 23% not sure, and 21% only if their doctor advised it.

Conclusions: The majority of caregivers were not aware of the FDA guidelines on CCM use in children younger than 2 years. Most thought CCMs were safe and effective.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Common Cold / drug therapy*
  • Cough / drug therapy*
  • Educational Status
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence
  • Hospitals, Military
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Respiratory System Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • Respiratory System Agents