OBJECTIVE. Pseudoephedrine, a decongestant found in many cough-and-cold and allergy medications, has been associated with deaths and adverse events in young children; however, the absolute risks of pediatric pseudoephedrine use are difficult to assess because the number of children exposed on a population basis and typical patterns of use are unknown. In addition, use may be changing because of the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005, which limited pseudoephedrine availability. We sought to describe the prevalence and patterns of pseudoephedrine use among US children and to assess any change since the 2005 law took effect.

METHODS. We analyzed data on pseudoephedrine use among 4267 children who were aged 0 to 17 years and enrolled from 1999 to 2006 in the Slone Survey, a national random-digit-dial telephone survey of medication use in the US population.

RESULTS. Overall, 214 children took pseudoephedrine in a given week. Use was highest for children who were younger than 2 years. Sixteen children (7.5% of users) took >1 pseudoephedrine-containing product within the same week, including 6 children who were younger than 2 years. Of the pseudoephedrine products used, most were multiple-ingredient liquids (58.9%) and multiple-ingredient tablets (24.7%). Fifty-two children (25.0% of users) took pseudoephedrine for >1 week, including 7 children who were younger than 2 years. Use in 2006 (2.9%) was significantly lower than in 1999–2005 (5.2%).

CONCLUSIONS. Pseudoephedrine exposure, mostly in the form of multiple-ingredient products, is common among US children, especially children who are younger than 2 years, who are at the highest risk for toxicity and for whom safe dosing recommendations are lacking. Concerning patterns of use include taking >1 pseudoephedrine-containing product concurrently and using pseudoephedrine for extended periods. Pediatric pseudoephedrine use seems to be declining since the institution of the 2005 Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act.

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