Death of 66 children in Gambia, South Africa, due to contaminated cough syrup reported by per the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently has created apprehensions among the parents against the use of cough syrups.
Although an inquiry was set up by Indian drug manufacturing company against the supplier and the outcome is still awaited, doctors advise the parents to be extremely careful while dealing with the ailments of young children.
Dr. Sanjeev Dutta, HOD and Sr Consultant Pediatrics, Marengo QRG Hospital, Faridabad says, “Though a very common symptom of pediatric illnesses, cough is an airway defense mechanism. It’s hence logical to aim treatment of the underlying disease instead of only symptomatic amelioration of cough with cough-syrup formulations. Different formulations of antihistaminics, antitussives, mucolytics and bronchodilators are available. “
Dr Dutta further said, “Though these cough syrups are generally well tolerated if used under prescription of a qualified medical practitioner, their over-the-counter use can’t be recommended for lack of good evidences for their effectiveness. Their use may not be any better than a placebo.”
Dr. Sandhya Soneja, General Pediatrician, ELANTIS Hospital, New Delhi said, “Efficacy of cough syrups for children has recently been put under question due to the rise in cases of deaths because of such medications. Although nothing has been proven as of yet, parents or caretakers have still started to worry about the health of their children and the side-effects of cough syrups. It is mandatory for parents or caretakers to take precautions before giving any medication to their children and this goes for everything from cough syrups to antibiotics. Since the root cause of coughing can be anything from bacterial to allergies, which require different medications, a paediatrician should be consulted before the intake of any cough syrup. More than required intake of any medicine can lead to problems in the immune system later on in life. As patients who regularly intake Antibiotics form a condition called Antimicrobial Resistance, intake of cough syrups for every time your children cough can be harmful as well. A pediatrician should always be consulted before taking any medication.”
Dr Soneja further said, “India has started to see an escalation in cases of over the counter medicines i.e. medicines without prescriptions which has already led to worsening of many cases. Intake of cough syrup or any medication should be avoided by parents and caretakers at all costs. There are many different types of coughs like dry cough or wet cough, cough because of Covid or TB. All of these require different medications which means a doctor should be consulted before intake of any medicine.”