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MHRA warns against Echinacea use in under 12s

Children under 12 years old should not use oral herbal products containing Echinacea due to potential risks of severe allergic reactions, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned.

The move by the MHRA follows precautionary advice from the European Herbal Medicinal Products Committee (HMPC) and from the UK Herbal Medicines Advisory Committee (HMAC).

Both organisations concluded the perceived benefits of the use of Echinacea in children under 12 years old are “outweighed” by the potential risks. While there is a low risk of allergic reactions to the herbal product, they “could be severe”.

“This is not a serious safety issue, but parents and carers need to be aware that children under 12 could have a low risk of developing allergic reactions, such as rashes from oral Echinacea products,” said Richard Woodfield, Head of Herbal Policy at the MHRA.

“The MHRA is working with the herbal sector to ensure that all oral Echinacea products are re-labelled with a warning that they should not be given to children under 12. The measures being taken are precautionary in nature.

"Parents should not worry if they have given Echinacea to children under 12 in the past. Anyone who has concerns should speak to their doctor, pharmacist or qualified healthcare practitioner.”

According to the MHRA, children aged 12 years or over and adults can continue to use oral products containing Echinacea as the risks of side effects are reduced because they weigh more and in general catch fewer colds.

Do you advise parents or carers to give children herbal products with Echinacea when suffering from colds or flu?