5-Year-Old's Cough Syrup Overdose Makes These Medicine Recommendations a Must

cough syrupI knew too much medicine could be dangerous for children, but this dangerous? Five-year-old Kimber Michelle Brown died from an overdose of two over-the-counter cold medicines while she was staying with her grandmother.

According to her autopsy, she had twice the limit of dextromethorphan (found in cough syrup) and high levels of Cetrizine (found in cold medicine). Coroner Dr. Carol Huser says it was the combination of these two medications that killed Kimber. And Dr. Huser thinks this horrible incident should be an important reminder to us: "People do not understand medication you buy off the supermarket shelf can be harmful. Common drugs like aspirin, Tylenol, and Benadryl will kill you if you take too much of them." For that matter, should we be giving young children under 6 cold medicine at all?

Pediatricians don't recommend cold medicine for children under 4, and many don't recommend it for older children, either. As with adult cold medications, these medicines may treat the symptoms but they won't cure your cold or even help you get well faster. And the risks from overdose and side effects aren't worth the relief for children. Here's what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for relieving symptoms.

Stuffy nose: Saline nose drops and cool vapor mist.

Cough: Honey -- seriously. Half a teaspoon of honey for children aged 2 to 5 years, 1 teaspoon for children aged 6 to 11 years, and 2 teaspoons for children 12 years and older. It's not considered safe to give honey to babies under 1 year. This works for adults, too!

Fever, aches, and pains: For babies under 6 months, acetaminophen, and for children over 6 months, acetaminophen or ibuprofen as directed by your pediatrician.

And here's something I didn't know: Leg pain, cramps, and muscle spasms can be symptoms that your child has had toxic levels of medication. So if your child does end up getting cold medicine, watch out for those symptoms.

Have you ever treated your children with cold medicine? Do you have favorite homeopathic remedies for cold symptoms?


Image via watashiwani/Flickr

toddler health, safety, in the news


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Mrscj... Mrscjones

How much medicine did they give her? I mean seriously

Todd Vrancic

If they dosed her by age and not by weight, she could have gotten an overdose quite easily without anyone suspecting.

Mandago Mandago

It's terrible that this little girl died from something so easily preventable. But it makes me angry that situations like this have caused doctors to pretend cold medicine has no benefits for children. Medication may not cure a cold, but it can certainly help relieve discomfort, and can sometimes prevent a cold from getting worse. My son is prone to sinus infections when he gets colds; treating him with Sudafed reduces nasal congestion and allows his mucous to drain instead of becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Also, I don't think anyone would dispute that adequate sleep is important when recovering from an illness, and it's impossible to sleep with a bad cough. When my four-year-old needs cough medicine, I give it to him. I gave it to him when he was three, too. If doctors would tell you an appropriate dosage for younger kids, I wouldn't have to guess.

Mindi Brizendine

Her grandma must have given her too much medicine. Why did she give her two different types of medicine? Whenever my son is teething I give him liquid baby tylenol. I give him have the recommended dose for his age. He thin so his weight isn't in the range of his age for the medicine. 

Teri_25 Teri_25

If I had to guess, the grandmother dosed based on age, not weight, and this is something that needs to be stressed to parents. Don't do it based upon the age, go by weight.

nonmember avatar MamaBeeJay

This case is heartbreaking! We use the sinus cleanse kit regularly and it has alleviated 95% of the colds, coughs and sinus/ear infections my kids, DH and I suffered from way too often! We even used it when our kids were infants, it's just saline and water so it's safe.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

I can't believe that they are not sure whether to charge her or not. You need to give a kid a lot of cold medicine to kill them so the grandmother either didn't bother looking at the instructions or she just didn't care.

Alison Carabajal

Our pediatrician says ABSOLUTELY NO OTC cold medicine. How much did this woman give her?

princ... princezzmommie

yes i use the otc stuff. i don't think any child should be miserable with say a runny nose just because someone with a medical degree says so. i do however, always always always call the pharmacy before i mix medications. its free. and it could have prevented this.


I use OTC occasionally but always double check w my cousin whose a CNP.

Honey makes my son gag, then throw up. Learned that the hard way when I tried to trick him into taking some.

1-10 of 93 comments 12345 Last