London, March 27 : A government agency responsible for ensuring safety of medicines and medical devices in the UK has decided to ban the sale of over-the-counter cough medicines, saying that such medications may be harmful to young children.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) says that common cough medicines aimed at young children have that potential to kill or cause illness.
The industry regulator suggests that people better return to traditional cough and cold treatments like glycerol, honey or lemon for a cough and vapour rubs for a stuffy nose.
It has already asked health professionals and shopkeepers not to sell six common cough products any further.
The agency says that these cough syrups will be available only when supplied by a pharmacist for older children.
Certain decongestants, expectorants, cough suppressors, and antihistamines are amongst 12 "active ingredients that have been banned by the MHRA due to worries about their life-threatening side effects.
The agency has also revealed that about 50 other products, which are presently authorised for toddlers, will have to be relabelled to warn buyers that they are not suitable for children aged two or below.
From October onwards, it will be mandatory for all manufacturers to follow the new guidelines issued by the MHRA.
Meanwhile, these medicines will be sold only to parents whose children are two or older.
An MHRA spokeswoman says that people who have been giving the banned products to their children need not panic.
"This is a precautionary measure. These ingredients are not effective on children under two and parents are tempted to give more to their children or to mix them with other things that can cause overdose. What we are recommending is that parents use single ingredient treatments, such as aspirin or ibuprofen," the Telegraph quoted her as saying.
"It is not a panic measure, it is a precaution. Some of these products have been on the shelves for 40 years and we have not had as many adverse reactions as the Americans have," she added.
In January, the US Food and Drug Administration had asked parents not to administer over-the-counter cough medicines to children under two, as there "have not been shown to be safe or effective".