A FIVE-YEAR-OLD girl died of a drug overdose after being given just twice the recommended amount of cough medicine while staying at her grandmother's house, a coroner has ruled.
Kimber Michelle Brown died on February 12 this year after taking the over-the-counter cough medicine to treat flu-like symptoms.
She had been staying with her grandmother, Linda Sheets, 59, at her home near Durango, in Colorado, although it was not clear whether she was administered the drug or had taken it herself.
A post-mortem showed that Kimber had just over twice the recommended limit of dextromethorphan – an over-the-counter drug found in cough and cold suppressants.
She also had higher-than-recommended levels of Cetirizine, another over-the-counter drug used to treat colds or allergy symptoms, according to Dr. Carol Huser, the coroner who conducted the autopsy.
In her report, obtained by the Durango Herald, Dr Huser wrote: "In my opinion, the combination of these drugs – which were the ingredients of the over-the-counter medications with which Kimber was being treated – caused her death." Dr Huser said that it was possible the grandmother inaccurately measured the doses of medicine or that Kimber took further medicine after being given a correct dosage, adding that the medicines were kept on a counter within the girl's reach.
The case is currently being reviewed to see whether criminal charges should be brought. But Dr Huser ruled the death an accident.
She wrote: "I have no reason to suspect any ill intent. The degree of negligence in either measuring an inappropriate dose or leaving medications within reach of a child does not, in my view, rise to the level I require for a certification of homicide." Dr Huser added that the death should serve as a warning to parents about the dangers of over-the-counter drugs.
"People do not understand medication you buy off the supermarket shelf can be harmful. Common drugs like aspirin, Tylenol and benadryl will kill you if you take too much of them.
"You have to treat drugs with respect. In our society in general, people rely on drugs to a greater degree than I think is wise. This is just a terrible situation for so many people." In the hours before her death Kimber, whose father Mike Brown is an investigator with the local Sheriff's Office, complained of leg pain, cramps and muscle spasms – all complications associated with drug toxicity, Dr Huser said.
The toxicology report found that Kimber had 96 nanograms per millilitre of dextromethorphan in her blood. The upper limit for adults is 40 ng/ml, Dr Huser said.
She had 490 ng/ml of Cetirizine. The normal dosage is between 271 and 352 ng/ml.