Instead of turning to over-the-counter cough and cold treatments, parents should consider following the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations and try home remedies first. Doctors at
St. Luke’s University Health Network agree.
Jennifer Janco, MD
Like all medications, even cold and cough medicines sold over the counter may cause serious side effects in kids, according to the AAP. Due to potential risks, the US Food and Drug Administration recommends that children younger than 4 years old should never be given over-the-counter treatments.
“Multiple studies have shown that cough and cold products are ineffective in alleviating symptoms or shortening the duration of symptoms,” says
Jennifer Janco, MD, Chair of Pediatrics, St. Luke’s University Health Network. “If it doesn’t work and it may cause harm, you are better off using some of the tried and true ‘grandma’ home remedies such as salt water or honey.” Of course, simply using a single ingredient fever/pain reducer at the correct dose is certainly a valid option if your little one has fever or pain as part of his or her symptoms.
“There are safer, more convenient and less costly ways to give sick kids some relief from symptoms such as coughing and a stuffy nose,” Dr. Janco advises. Here are some pediatrician-recommended suggestions:
- Runny nose: Just suction or blow it. Although antihistamines can be useful in treating nasal allergies, they won’t help relieve cold symptoms. Remember that the nose is designed to make mucous…but you can keep clearing it!
- Stuffy nose: No medication can remove dried mucus from the nose, but nasal washes can help. You can make saline solution at home by adding 1/8 -1/4 teaspoon of table salt to 8 ounces of warm tap water. A few drops of warm water will work, too. Using a humidifier or running a warm shower can help keep mucus from drying up.
- Coughing: Children under the age of 3 months should be seen by their doctor. Babies between 3 months and 1 year can be given one to three teaspoons of warm, clear fluids, such as Pedialyte® or apple juice, four times a day. Kids older than 1 year can take up to one teaspoon of honey as needed to thin mucus and loosen their cough. (Research shows that honey helps reduce the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing as well, but children must be over the age of 12 months to use it safely.)
“Children with coughs or colds may not always need treatment,” adds Dr. Janco. “If your kids aren’t bothered by their symptoms, and continue to play and sleep normally, there’s no reason to use either over-the-counter or home remedies. These treatments are really only helpful if cough and cold is making your child uncomfortable and prevents your son or daughter from sleeping.”
Dr. Janco also recommends you call your pediatrician if your child’s symptoms worsen, or if there’s a fever that lasts longer than a few days. “It’s always better to be safe than sorry,” she emphasizes. “If your child has an underlying medical condition that may make it harder to handle the common cold or if you’re worried for any reason, call your doctor.”
Mariella B. Miller
Senior Director, Corporate Communications
St. Luke's University Health Network
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