What do you do when your three year old is up all night coughing and sneezing from a cold? Do you reach for the cold medicine or make him suffer through it?  A new survey has found that many parents in this situation give their children cough or cold medicine, despite FDA warnings to the contrary.

In 2008, the FDA - or Food and Drug Administration - issued a voluntary advisory stating that children under four should not be given over-the-counter cough and cold medicines or multi-symptom cold and flu medicines.  In response, manufacturers of these types of medicines began putting warning labels on their bottles, stating that they drugs should not be given to children under age four.  The FDA's decision was based on data showing that these medications were not effective for young children and may cause serious side effects including allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, drowsiness or sleeplessness, slow and shallow breathing, confusion or hallucinations, convulsions, nausea, and constipation. 

But almost five years later, many parents are still handing out these medications to young children, despite the warning from the FDA and the warning label on the product's packaging.

According to a recent survey by researchers at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, 40 percent of parents reported giving children under age 4 cough medicine or multi-symptom cough and cold medicine. Twenty-five percent said they give their young children decongestants.  One thing that isn't clear is why parents continue to give these medications despite FDA and product warnings.  Researchers are planning a follow-up study this winter that will aim to answer this question, asking parents whether they haven't heard about the FDA's advisory, if they simply disagree with it, or if they are giving the medicine on the advice of their child's health care provider.  

In the meantime, for children under four that are suffering with a cold, put down those OTC medicines and try one of these natural cough and cold remedies for babies

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