VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian health officials urged parents on Thursday not to give over-the-counter cold medicines to children under the age of six, citing concern over misuse and overdoses.
The federal health agency, Health Canada, which had earlier this year recommended the medicines not be given to children less than two years old, said there is limited evidence that the medications have any effectiveness for young children.
Health Canada asked a scientific panel to review the issue this year, and said that the panel found that in addition to concerns of misuse and overdoses there were reports of rare but serious side effects from the treatments.
"While the link between the adverse events and the products cannot be definitely proven by these reports, they are signs that Health Canada cannot ignore," the agency said in a statement.
The agency said it set six years as the cut-off, in part, because children younger than that generally have more colds than older children are therefore are exposed to more of the medications.
A group representing drug makers warned in October that oral cough and cold medicines sold over the counter should not be used in children younger than four because of the risk of rare complications linked to inappropriate use.
Manufacturers have maintained that nonprescription cold and cough products are safe when used as directed.
Health Canada said manufactures will be required to change their labels on the medicines next year, and studies will continue on proper dosing levels for children.
Reporting Allan Dowd, Editing by Peter Galloway