whole aisle devoted to them in the pharmacy sections of stores that carry
medicines. But do you need them? Or, more importantly, should you ever use them
for your child? The FDA says definitely not to give them to children two years
and younger. And the American Academy of Pediatrics, which has found that cold
medicines are ineffective in children younger than six years of age, recommends
against using them.
What are the concerns with these medicines?
Side effects of over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines can be potentially
life-threatening, especially in children less than two years old.
There’s a risk in giving a child too much medicine
(overdosing the child).
But can’t these medicines help?
Not really. There is little evidence that these medicines
really help with cold symptoms. And we know for sure that they don’t make
the illness go away any faster.
What if you want to try an OTC cold
Review the “active” ingredients listed on the box.
If you are giving your child more than one medicine for a
cold, make sure that the two medicines don’t share some of the same active
ingredients. A good example is someone giving a “cold medicine” along with
Tylenol: Sometimes a cold medicine will actually contain acetaminophen, which is Tylenol—and giving double the
dose would be dangerous.
Only measure doses with measuring utensils that have been designed
for measuring out medicines—i.e., those that either come with the medicine itself
or from the pharmacy. Don’t use kitchen measuring spoons you use when baking because
their actual volumes may be too high.
antibiotics do not and cannot cure a cold, which is caused by a virus.
But my child is miserable with this cold!
What can I do?
Acetaminophen or (for those children older than six months
of age) ibuprofen can help with fever, headache, and sore throat.
Note that a low-grade fever that doesn’t appear to bother
a child does not need any medicine. In fact, not administering any meds may help
the child’s immune system to fight the illness faster.
Cool drinks, popsicles, ice cream, etc., may help with a sore throat. And some
people really do get sore-throat relief by gargling warm salt water.
Saline spray or saline drops can help relieve stuffy-nose
symptoms. And, for infants, saline drops followed by gentle suction of the
nostrils with a bulb syringe can help clear out a nose.
A cool-mist humidifier (vaporizer) can help with the symptoms of cough and nose congestion. (Note: Be sure to follow the
manufacturer’s instructions for cleaning the machine, so as to keep it
free of mold.)