The Editorial Executive Committee welcomes letters, which should be less than 250 words. Before a decision to publish is made, letters which refer to a published article may be sent to the author for a response. Any letter may be sent to an expert for comment. When letters are published, they are usually accompanied in the same issue by their responses or comments. The Committee screens out discourteous, inaccurate or libellous statements. The letters are sub-edited before publication. Authors are required to declare any conflicts of interest. The Committee's decision on publication is final.

Letter to the editor

Editor, – Some of us have had serious reservations about the advisability and efficacy of over-the-counter medications in children for some time (Aust Prescr 2001;24:149-51). As stated in the article, there are few reliable sources of information. I thought your readers may be interested in some others.

There is an article showing the striking absence of efficacy data for cough and cold medicines in children, and the many non-scientific factors contributing to the frequency of their use.1 I was interested to learn that healthy children, who have not had a respiratory tract infection within the past month, cough 1-34 times per day.2

Another article on antipyretic therapy states that neither the detrimental effects of fever nor the salutary effects of antipyretic therapy have been confirmed experimentally. Furthermore, carefully controlled efficacy studies have never quantified the degree to which antipyretic therapy enhances the comfort of patients with fever.3

Even the old dependable gripe water for the treatment of colic is a sham! It now seems that its soothing effect derives from its sweet taste, which can be duplicated with sugar solutions.4

Ben Basger
North Bondi, NSW


  1. Gadomski A. Rational use of over-the-counter medications in young children. JAMA 1994;272:1063-4.
  2. Chang AB, Robertson CF. Cough in children. Med J Aust 2000;172:122-5.
  3. Plaisance KI, Mackowiak PA. Antipyretic therapy: physiologic rationale, diagnostic implications, and clinical consequences. Arch Intern Med 2000;160:449-56.
  4. Blumenthal I. The gripe water story. J R Soc Med 2000;93:172-4.