A US congressional subcommittee is currently investigating why the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) permits antihistamines in cold remedies, when they are of no proven benefit.
Among the many testimonials in a recent hearing was that of Dr Nancy Hutton, assistant professor of paediatrics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicin.
She testified that in a study she did of 96 children with colds, there were no differences between those treated with an antihistamine decongestant, those receiving no treatment and those receiving a placebo.
Another representative from the Maryland Poison Control Center said that in 1990 some 7 per cent of poisonings were related to agents containing antihistamines.
Care is particularly necessary since there is no antidote for an overdose.
"It is my opinion that these drugs should be removed from all non prescription products promoted for the relief of cough and cold symptoms," said Dr Leslie Hendeles, a professor of pharmacy and paediatrics at the University of Florida.
The FDA is currently reviewing the evidence before making a decision.