Old labels lead to cold med confusion

February 12, 2009 3:41:38 PM PST
The Food and Drug Administration says side effects from over-the-counter cold medicine for children can be dangerous. That’s why companies told the FDA last year that they’d voluntarily change their labels to say “do not use” for kids under the age of four.

But an Eyewitness News investigation found that medicine with old labels is still on the shelf and could be putting your kids at risk.

Crystal Chrisp is a mother who went looking for relief for her son Isaiah who's about to turn two.

"He couldn't breathe," she explained.

So, she went to a Wal-Mart in Oxford and bought Triaminic Daytime Cold and Cough Medicine. She says the label on the medicine gave a dosage for children between the ages of 2 and 6 of 1 teaspoon.

"I was like, okay, well he could have just one teaspoon, that should be fine," she explained.

Even though the box labeling gave a dosage for children older than two, Chrisp said she figured it would be safe. But the day after she gave her son the medicine, she went to the Triaminic website and found a warning that said "Do not use for children under age 4."

Chrisp was confused and called her doctor.

"She said do not give him any more of that medicine," Chrisp told Eyewitness News investigative reporter Steve Daniels. "Because of the side effects, they've had children that have died before."

Dr. Kyne Wang is a pediatrician in Durham who told Eyewitness News that very young children shouldn't take the medication.

"We've seen kids who have been very agitated, had hallucinations," Wang said.

He says every year hundreds of kids across the country get very sick from overdosing on cold medicine.

"There are a few kids every year who actually die from side effects from these types of medications," he offered.

Eyewitness News went to the Wal-Mart in Oxford where Chrisp bought the medication to see if it's was still for sale and found about a dozen boxes with the old label. But at a Wal-Mart store in Raleigh, we found the medication with the new packaging that clearly warns against giving it to children younger than 4.

Dr. Wang says that's part of the problem.

"Because this was a voluntary relabeling, the FDA did not require these products that were already there to be pulled off," he explained.

He said parents should never give cough and cold medicine to kids younger than four - no matter what the box says.

"You want to do as much - I know as a parent - to help your child get better from the illness, but you definitely don't want to be doing these types of cold medicines without the recommendation of your physician," he said.

Now, Chrisp says after seeing what happened to kids across the country, she's worried the medicine may have harmed her son Isaiah.

"It would hurt my heart to have to explain to him what happened," she said. "And a bad choice that I made, just because I thought it would be okay because it was still on the shelf."

"I gave him a couple teaspoons of medicine to help a cold, and then I ruined the rest of his life," she continued.

Dr. Wang says it's unlikely the cold medicine did any long term damage to Isaiah, and the child suffered no short term ill effects.

Novartis - Triaminic's parent company - says the re-labeling was voluntary and the FDA has allowed products with the old label to remain on the shelf. The new labels began arriving in stores in November and will continue throughout the cough and cold season.

If you have an issue you'd like the Eyewitness News investigative team to tackle, you can email us at: steve.daniels@abc11mail.com


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