Ann Arbor, MI—Pharmacists may feel as if they field a lot of questions about OTC medications to help children with allergy symptoms. In fact, they are among the most common resources for parents seeking remedies for the sneezing, coughing, and congestion so common at this time of year.

The problem, according to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Children’s Health, might be that too few parents are seeking advice from healthcare professionals, especially since 21% of them report being baffled by which and how much allergy medication to give their children.

“Parents often face an overwhelming selection of allergy medicine without clear guidelines on how to choose the right one for their child,” explained poll co-director and Mott pediatrician Gary Freed, MD, MPH. “Some parents may be picking allergy medication based on their interpretation of different advice they’ve heard, which may not always be accurate.”

Responses to the Mott poll come from a national sample of 1,066 parents of children aged 6 to 12 years who were asked about experiences with OTC pediatric medicines. Most had used such products with their school-aged children in the past year.

While physicians were parents’ first choice for advice about allergy medication, at 61%, 38% consulted their pharmacist. Yet, almost a third of parents, 32%, said they routinely turned to a friend or to family members for advice.

“If parents are unsure how to navigate allergy medication choices, they should always check with their child’s healthcare provider,” recommended Freed, who noted that poll results revealed some potential problems.

For example, 85% of the parents said they used medication they already had in the house to dose their children, yet 18% said they hadn’t checked the expiration date first. Freed pointed out that, while the practice isn’t necessarily dangerous, it could be less effective.

Even more concerning, he said, is that about 15% of the parents report that they have given their child OTC allergy medicine labeled for adults; a third of them used the adult-recommended dose, while the remainder used a partial adult dose.

“If taken as directed, over-the-counter allergy medicines are safe and effective for children, but parents should be very careful to give their child the correct dose,” Freed pointed out. “Doses greater than recommended for children can result in more severe side effects.”

« Click here to return to Weekly News Update.