The panel's advice dovetails with a petition filed by pediatricians that argued the over-the-counter medicines shouldn't be given to children younger than 6, an age group they called the most vulnerable to potential ill effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups back the petition.
But FDA officials and panelists agreed there's no evidence they work in older children, either. Still, panelists held off from recommending against use in those 6 and older. And some said they feared such a prohibition wouldn't eliminate use of the medicines by parents.
"They will administer adult products to their children because they work for them or feel they work for them," said the panel's patient and family representative, Amy Celento of Nutley, N.J.
The drug industry says the medicines, used 3.8 billion times a year in treating cold and cough symptoms in children, do work and are safe.
The panel also recommended drug makers provide standardized droppers with their liquid cough and cold medicines. Experts had told the panel the sometimes hard-to-use dosing devices contribute to parents unwittingly overdosing their children.
One health expert told the panel that children catch five to eight colds each year. Those colds don't necessarily require treatment beyond comfort measures that don't involve drugs, said Patricia Jackson Allen, of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.