Despite Health Canada's warnings, one in five kids under the age of six are still given over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, according to a recent study.
Federal guidelines were issued on children's cold meds since October 2009, yet two years later researchers reported a mere four percent drop in the number of parents giving the remedies to young children - even though such meds were possibly ineffective and potentially harmful.
Published in the Canadian Journal of Public Health, the study of more than 1,000 children aged between one and five years in the Greater Toronto Area found that younger parents as well as families with older children were most likely to be dispensing the cold medicines to children under six.
Over-the-counter cold meds for kids aren't mere sugary syrups. They usually contain a mix of antihistamines, decongestants, cough suppressants and acetaminophen. These ingredients can cause side-effects like heart palpitations and high blood pressure, and in cases where an incorrect or overlapping dose is administered, children could suffer seizures or fall into a coma.
In some cases, the sedating effect of the medication can prove lethal.
"We know these medications are harmful," said lead researcher and pediatrician at St. Michael's Hospital, Dr. Jonathon Maguire.
"We know they're not recommended for use in children. We also know a lot of families seek them because, let's face it, when your child is sick with a cough and cold, it's a really tough time and parents are grasping for solutions for relief."
When your child is sick, you'll do almost anything to make them feel better. As a parent there's that feeling of urgency and desperation. You want to fix whatever's ailing your kiddo and have it gone already.
Given the findings of the study, though, many parents out there either aren't reading the labels or else they're actively ignoring them, which is a risky business.
Health officials would like to see cold medicines held behind the pharmacy counter, and more prominent warnings on packaging - two suggestions that make a whole lot of sense.
Clearly we all need to take a bit more time and care when doling out meds of any kind to our kids. Just getting the dose or the timing wrong could have health implications far worse than a barking cough or a scratchy throat.