Study: Giving Kids Cough Syrup To Calm Them Is Abuse

A new study equates giving children Benadryl, or other drugs to calm them, with child abuse.

The study, authored by Dr. Shan Yin, formerly of Denver Health Medical Center, tracked “malicious” pharmaceutical abuse cases from 2000 to 2008. Yin found that children were most often given analgesics, followed by stimulants, street drugs like marijuana, and sedatives. Yin concluded that the problem “should be considered an important form of child abuse.”

“It’s putting children at risk unnecessarily,” said Debbie Hart, program director for the child abuse prevention group Family Advocacy, Care, Education, Support (FACES).

The study found that, of roughly 14,000 cases of pharmaceutical abuse, 14 percent resulted in “moderate to major consequences, including death.”

But Hart said, despite the statistics, some parents continue to turn to the medicine cabinet to control fussy or difficult children.

“It’s sometimes an easy way to deal with problem behavior, whereas healthy parenting practices sometimes take more time,” said Hart.

Linda Jones, who was picnicking with her three grandchildren in Washington Park, said her parents rubbed alcohol on her gums when she was teething, but she does not believe in giving children medication to calm them.

“Being from the old school, we didn’t drug our kids,” she said.

But Jones’ daughter-in-law had a different view on a recent road trip to Las Vegas.

“She gave them Benadryl,” said Jones. “She thinks it calms them down a little and makes them sleep a little better.”

Jenny Taylor, a physicians’ assistant with Pediatric Pathways, said an alternative to medicating a fussy child on a plane trip, is to schedule the flight around nap time and feed the child at take-off and on landing.

Taylor said that 10 years ago, pediatricians prescribed Benadryl to help young children sleep, but research has shown that children can have paradoxical reactions to Benadryl and Pathways does not recommend Benadryl as a calming agent.