No More Codeine For Kids Under 12, Says FDA

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Giving children medication is always a bit of a tricky subject. As parents, we’re often scared of all the adverse side effects or long-term negative effects of anything our children ingest. And with good reason! Do the benefits outweigh the risks or is it vice versa? We certainly don’t want to over-medicate our little ones. We’re told to give babies acetaminophen but not ibuprofen. We’re told not to give kids any cold or cough medicine at all. And although this particular one is a prescription medication anyway, the FDA now says no more codeine for kids under 12—and parents, we need to listen.

Now, codeine is an opiate that’s used for treating pain, cough, and occasionally, diarrhea. And according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s latest statement, the labels on codeine medications will now note that it should not be used to treat pain in children under the age of 12. Additionally, they’ve added tramadol (another opiate used for pain management) as another medication that should not be used for anyone under 18. Tramadol is sometimes prescribed after tonsillectomies, but will no longer be recommended by the FDA. The announcement also states that tramadol should not be used at all by minors ages 12-18 who happen to be obese or have severe lung disease, obstructive sleep apnea, or any related conditions. So, you know, make a note.

Giphy /

Giphy /


Breastfeeding Mamas Also Need To Listen

The FDA is also recommending that y’all do not breastfeed while taking codeine or tramadol either, as there’s potential for risk of the medication passing through the breast milk. Of course, these are the sorts of things you should also discuss with your health care provider. I know I had to take a mild dose of codeine while breastfeeding my own son who was in the NICU at the time. But the doctors cleared it due to the fact that my son was on even stronger medications. That said, I would have never dreamt of taking so much as a mint while breastfeeding without getting the OK from my doctor and my son’s doctors.

According to, the new FDA warnings spawned out of recent reports that showed the mortality rates of children using codeine. The reports studied cases that occurred between January 1969 and May 2015, which included 24 deaths for kids under 18 tied to the opiate. 21 of those were in children under 12 years of age. Additionally, 40 cases involved serious breathing difficulties for minors using the drug. No doubt the FDA does not want to add to those incidents.

So basically, do yourselves and your kids a favor and if you weren’t already, keep all opiates out of their reach. And when someone prescribes the medication, make sure to ask a lot of questions, or even get a second opinion. There’s always the chance a different method can be used, and why risk your child’s health anyway?

(Image: iStock / lithium366)