Abu Dhabi: Remedies for coughs and colds may result in undesirable or dangerous side effects in young children, particularly among those less than two years of age, said a consultant paediatrician in response to a recent circular sent by the UAE Ministry of Health.

The circular instructed all pharmacies, public and private hospitals across the UAE, to stop prescribing cold or cough medication to children under six years of age and to seek advice from physicians for those over that age.

Dr Amin Bin Hussain Al Amiri, chief executive of Medical Practice and Licensing at the health ministry told Gulf News that the decision would help control over-the-counter medicines given to children particularly between the ages of six and 12.

"The ministry has always controlled over-the-counter medications, particular those given to infants and we are proud to say that we have always banned unnecessary drugs over the counter. This is not a new decision, it's simply a reminder to all those concerned," Al Amiri told Gulf News, adding that pharmacies should get used to asking their clients for a doctors prescription from now on.

Dr Peter Thornback, senior consultant in the division of General Paediatrics at the Institute of Paediatrics at Shaikh Khalifa Medical City told Gulf News that scientific studies over several years had failed to demonstrate that cough and cold remedies for infants and children provided any relief.

"Components of certain medications for infants may include drugs which can increase the risk of seizure, cause potentially fatal heart rhythm-disturbances or alteration in level of consciousness and suppression of breathing (when cough suppressants or anti-histamines are employed)," said Thornback.

He added that unless directions were followed carefully, the risk of overdose was high, thereby enhancing any adverse side effects. Thornback said the medication was designed to be palatable to little children, making it more open to inadvertent abuse.

Even though certain countries implemented the ban among children under two years of age, the ministry went further to increasing the age to six, claiming that certain medications could cause serious allergies, drowsiness, hallucinations among children up to that age.

"We have instructed all manufacturing companies to issue warning labels in different languages including Arabic. Labels will be stating that it's not allowed to prescribe the medicine for a child under six years old - to make sure that the decision is strictly followed and clear among the medical community across the UAE. This will be implemented in six months from now," Al Amiri added.

According to Thornback, there were simple and proven safe alternatives for infants and children to take; some of which include saline (salt water) drops or sprays for nasal congestion and warm honey and lemon in water for irritating coughs.

Medicines: Mandated to warn

The Ministry of Health has now requires manufacturing companies to add labels to the following medications: Actifed compound Linctus, Actifed DM, Actifed Expectorant, Amydramine-II (sugar free), Amydramine expectorant, Amydramine II, Amydramine, Paediatric, Aurimel, Benylin, Benylin (paediatric), Bepro, Bronchophane, Bronchopront 15mg/5ml, Bronchopront 7.5mg/ml, Brotapp dm Cold & Cough Liquid, Codaphed, Codilar, Dextrokuf, Dextrolag, Dicton Retard 30, Dulsana, Dulsana Mild, Emikoff, Emikoff, Exedexe 15mg/5ml, Exylin, Exylin, Ezipect, Guafedrin, Guaphan 100mg/5ml, Histalix expectorant, Histalix Expectorant (paediatric), Isilin, Kafosed 15mg/5ml, Levopront 60mg/10ml, Mentex, Neocoff dm, Neocoff 14mg/5ml, Neocoff Junior 7mg/5ml, Neocold, Pectal Expectorant, Pectomed, Pectox, Polaramine, Expectorant, Riaphan 15mg/5ml, Rinofed Expectorant, Rinofed plus, Robitussin CF, Romilar 15mg/ml, Romilar Expectorant, Romin 15mg/5ml, Rondec, Rondec, Sedofan DM, Siltussin dm, Cough Syrup, Sinecod 0.15% w/v, Sinecod 0.5%, Soolan (Paediatric), St Joseph (Children), Sudafed Expectorant, Tixylix Linctus, Toclase 15mg/5ml, Tripofed DM, Tripofed Expectorant, Tussifin with Codeine, Unifed DM, Unifed Expectorant Unifed® and Viscodril (alcohol free).

Your comments

That is the reason still many doctors/paediatricians in India use herbal cough syrups. I always insist to take herbal cough syrups.
Posted: March 18, 2009, 14:32

My question is how the treatment for cough and cold will be treated, as sometime it is severe in babies.
Som K. C.
Abu Dhabi,UAE
Posted: March 18, 2009, 12:50

To senior doctors who issued the above mentioned medicine is not advised for kids. Yesterday I spoke to a pharmacist regarding this issue and he said that no people will not turn up to doctors if cough medicine is not given to the patients the answer he made was not correct. Similarly I asked a child specialist regarding it and he was not aware of this banning of medicines. From this I have noticed that doctors working are not updated with the latest medicial news. Thank you for making us aware of these medicines since I have got young children.
Kousalya Raghunathan
Posted: March 18, 2009, 12:12

It is so strange to hear about this after 36 years. Since we were born we used these medicine on ourselves and on our children, thankfully till now I don't have any side effects. I remember when my mom told me they were giving me the same medicine which everyone used for their children.
From A Reader
Posted: March 18, 2009, 09:55