Kids, teens under 18 should not use cough products with opioids: Health Canada

Cillian O’Brien, Staff
Published Monday, February 18, 2019 12:29PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 18, 2019 12:36PM EST

New guidance from Health Canada says that children and teens under 18 should not use cough products containing opioids because they “may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life.”

A review by the public health department found “limited evidence” to support the effectiveness of certain cough and cold products in children.

“Following a safety review of cough and cold products containing opioids, Health Canada is advising that Canadian children and adolescents should not use cough and cold products containing codeine, hydrocodone and normethadone, as a precautionary measure,” Health Canada said in a news release. 

“While the review did not find any strong evidence linking cough and cold products that contain opioids with opioid use disorders in children and adolescents, it did find that the early use of opioids may be a factor in problematic substance use later in life.”

Health Canada previously advised against the use of all cough and cold medicines in children younger than six, and said cautionshould be exercised when these formulas are used in older children.

A 2009 review foundthat over-the-counter cough and cold products have not been shown to be effectivein children under six.

“Serious harm, including misuse, overdose and side-effects may occur in children under six years of age when using over-the-counter cough and cold products, although the risk of such serious harm is low,” the department wrote.

Health Canada has asked medicine manufacturers to update their product safety information to reflect its new recommendation.

It advised parents to ask their doctor for alternatives to products containing opiods and reminded them to always read the labels.

The use of prescription cough and cold products containing opioids has been declining among children over the past five years, Health Canada said.

The use of these products by youth under age 18 represents just four per cent of the total opioid cough and cold prescriptions dispensed in Canada.

Health Canada has started a review of all non-prescription products for children that contain codeine due to its potential for abuse, to determine whether similar action is appropriate.

Following a safety review in 2015 to assess the risk of serious breathing problems in children, Health Canada recommended that codeine prescription products not be given to kids under 12.

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