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New Warning for Kids and Codeine Cough Meds

New Warning for Kids and Codeine Cough Meds

The British pop music band Everything Everything came out with a song called Cough Cough in 2012. It’s gotten over 2.6 million YouTube views to date. Clearly, kids like the sound of Cough, Cough. And while parents can generally tolerate their children’s music, when it’s the real cough, cough they tend to reach for the fastest way to silence it.

With flu season upon you, we strongly advise moms and dads to follow the labeling recommendations and use caution when reaching for codeine-containing cough and cold medicines. Why? Codeine is an opioid pain reliever and there’s a potential for serious adverse effects for kids, including slowed or difficult breathing.

Earlier this year the European Medicine Agency issued a warning saying that codeine “must not be used to treat cough and cold in children under 12” and for any children between 12 and 18 with breathing problems. And that’s moved the FDA to take a look at strengthening its 2013 “boxed” warning (its strongest); that warning said codeine should not be given to kids who have post–op pain following a tonsillectomy and/or adenoidectomy. We suggest that all physicians and parents opt for the tighter restraints. And use alternatives such as honey. A spoonful is the tried and true remedy for a cough and sore throat. And with all of the different choices you have these days, pick out something fun. Tupelo Honey (and Van Morrison) can put an end to cough and… ahem… Cough Cough.

Medically reviewed in February 2020.

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