OTC meds

Thursday, October 18, 2007

My first experience with Olympic drug testing came peripherally many years ago. An athlete was visiting our network in the IBC when she became ill. Nothing serious but she could have used a little medication to make her more comfortable. A quick call to her coach was met with horror that the athlete might actually take any medication that hadn’t been vetted by the team doc. Though her competition was done, they wanted nothing in her body that could potentially be harmful.

We like to use elite athletes as role models and most care deeply what they put in their body. They want supplements that are proven to work with no risk of side effect and injury. We haven’t learned much from the playing fields when it comes to our kids.

The Consumer Health Care Products Association announced this week that kids’ cough and cold medications would be pulled off the market because of “an abundance of caution”. The association is made up of a group of companies that manufacture over the counter cold medications and it makes good PR for them to take a proactive stance to insure that medications are being taken safely. They are concerned that kids younger than 2 may be at risk for overdose and adverse reactions.

It may make good PR, but their motives may be less altruistic. The FDA put out a warning two months ago that “questions had been raised about the safety of these products and whether the benefits justify ant potential risks of these products in children, especially in children under 2 years of age. The FDA was wise in rushing to warn parents about the dangers of over-the-counter drugs.

In 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics published a policy statement that concluded that there were no studies that showed that cough preparations worked in children and that dosing guidelines were not well established. “Cough due to acute viral airway infections is short-lived and may be treated with fluids and humidity.” Somehow, that recommendation got lost for a decade.

The common cold medications have a variety of side effects and contraindications to their use hide in very tiny print. Pseudophedrine can cause palpitations and raise blood pressure. Antihistamines like diphenhydramine can cause drowsiness; they should since they are the active ingredient in OTC sleeping pills. In some kids the opposite reaction occurs and they can get hyper. Cough suppressants like dextomethorphan and codeine also can cause significant sleepiness. And how could we forget alcohol? Nyquil is a prime example of hidden medications. Though it’s listed as an inactive ingredient, each bottle is 20% alcohol.

As cold and flu season ramps up, the recommendations for treatment remain pretty anti-drug. Use plain tylenol or ibuprofen to treat fever. Push fluids to maintain hydration. Humidify air to help with cough and congestion. Rest and allow time to heal.

Our bodies are amazing things. Within elite athletes is the power to perform. Within the rest of us is the power to heal.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.