How the coloring of medications put us at risk.


There is no medical benefit to adding color or flavoring to our medications.  In fact the dangers of coloring and flavoring them make me wonder why it is even legal to do so.  On one hand I understand pharmaceutical companies wanting to make it easier for mom and dad to medicate their child by providing a taste and look that appeals to their children.  But poisoning my child with dyes and flavoring just so I can avoid dealing with my child’s tantrum is not the way to do it.

Food dye alone is known to cause tumors, hyperactivity, hypersensitivity, and more!!! Here is a list of dyes and the dangers that are associated them.

Blue dye#1: Chromosomal damage.  Has been banned in France and Finland.

Blue #2: Brain tumors.  Banned in Norway.

Citrus Red #2: Bladder tumors.  The U.S. has banned the use of this dye in food processing but is permitted to color orange skins.

Green #3: Bladder tumors. Has been banned in European economic communities.

Red dye #40:  This dye is the most widely used and can cause chromosomal damage, lymphomas, and hyperactivity.

Red dye #3: Chromosomal damage, neurochemical and behavioral effects, and thyroid tumors.  The FDA tried to ban it and failed to do so.

Yellow #5: Chromosomal damage, lymphomas, hyperactivity, neurochemical and behavioral effects, thyroid tumors, allergies, aggression, violent behavior, asthma, and insomnia.  This dye has been banned in Norway.

Yellow #6: Chromosomal damage, hyperactivity, thyroid tumors, allergies, asthma, eczema, and hives. Has been banned in Sweden and Norway.

Is giving your child a medication that looks pretty and tastes good really worth the risk? I sure don’t!!!  Our household tries to avoid dyes in everything we possibly can even beyond our food and medications.  We use dye free soaps, laundry detergent, etc….  There is no need for dyes in these products.  What spurred us to become as dye free as we possibly can was after discovering that our youngest was highly allergic to red dyes many years ago.  Not just one, but all red dyes.  She not only had severe reactions from digesting them, she would also do so when she had physical contact with one.  We began carrying hand sanitizer with us everywhere we went because most places only provided liquid soap that had been colored with red dye.  Avoiding red dye meant avoiding every color derived from it as well.  No purple and pink princess cake for her!!  This also meant reading every label.  We discovered red dye in many products that were not red, pink, orange, or purple!!  When in doubt we throw it out!!! Even I have noticed an increased amount of pain whenever I consume food coloring.

I used to feel sorry for my daughter because of her food dye allergy, of course that was before knowing about their dangers.  Now I am thankful that because of her allergy she will be at a lesser risk for all the above mentioned ailments.  The only problem that we still struggle with is finding medication that isn’t colored.  At the time of her dye allergy diagnosis, the only dye free allergy pill available was double the cost of the pink ones and not for children. However we didn’t have a choice and that is what she needed.  Thankfully now the cost is the equivalent and she is at an age where my doctors are okay with prescribing adult medications for her. Not that there are aren’t adult medications that contain dyes, but there are more dye free options. At this point the only medications that we are unable to find a dye free version of cough syrups.  Instead we use honey as a cough suppressant.  While not as fast acting or long lasting as a cough syrup, it does help.  One might think that getting her to take the honey would be easier than a traditional syrup, but they would be wrong.  She hates honey.  She doesn’t mind it if it has been baked into something, but she considers swallowing a spoonful of honey to be a form of torture.  To this day she has a fit about having to take it.  I just tell her what I have told her since she was first diagnosed, “suck it up buttercup!”

The scary part of coloring medications is that they dye is not always disclosed.  During one particular doctors visit, our doctor prescribed her a cough syrup.  By this point we had been become pros at avoiding red dye and knew that we had to constantly remind physicians and pharmacists of her allergy.  Being that we had just moved to California and were seeing a new doctor, I was ready for the challenge.  I made sure to make just about every staff member of that doctor’s office aware of her allergy.  I stressed her allergy to her doctor several times during our short visit.  He assured me that there was no red dye in the syrup he prescribed.  Still not feeling assured, I made it a point to stress the importance of the syrup being dye free to the pharmacist.  An hour later the pharmacist called to tell me that the original prescription DID contain red dye and that they would be contacting the physician for a different prescription.  When I arrived to pick up the new prescription I began to inspect the bottle.  Because the bottle was dark, I was unable to see the syrup.  Prior to paying I asked again if they were positive that this syrup did not contain red dye.  They pulled up the ingredient list on their computer and read the list to me.  Red dye was never mentioned nor was any natural ingredient that could cause a red color listed.  So I paid and went home to give my daughter her first dose.  My heart sunk the moment I dispensed her dosage, that is right, IT WAS RED!!!!  We are not talking light pink, it was bright red!!!!!! I learned a lesson that day, and that is to have the pharmacy open and prove that a medication is dye free before purchasing it.  I also learned that just because something isn’t listed in the ingredients it doesn’t mean that it isn’t in there.  The reason I began insisting upon pharmacies showing me the ingredient list as well as to be able to inspect the medication personally before paying for it is because when the product is opened after purchasing the pharmacies are unable to refund your money.  It doesn’t matter if they screwed up or not.  Avoiding dyes in medications involves a lot of research, actively asking questions, and using natural methods that may not help as quickly or as well.

I would like to end this post by posing this question:  If coloring medication offers absolutely no medical value and comes with a long list of dangers, why are so many of our medications colored?  Especially in our children’s medications, why would we want to expose these young darlings to more danger than they need to be exposed to?  When it comes to colored medication, JUST SAY NO!!!

The Disabled Diva



Published by Cynthia Covert

Diagnosed in 2001 with psoriasis, followed by fibromyalgia, psoriatic arthritis, endometriosis, and later a botched hysterectomy turned her world upside down. Cynthia shares her experience, advice, and tips for how to make life with chronic pain easier and less painful.

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