Cold medicines: Should I give them to my child?

The short answer is: No.  Sadly, like most things in medicine, there is no short answer to anything.  With the winter season starting, cough and colds are now on the rise.  If you walk down the cold remedy aisle in the drugstore the amount of information and medications can be overwhelming.  However, if you follow the tips below you might be armed with a little more information to battle this years cold and flu season.

When it comes to over the counter cold medications there are a few rules:

1. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not recommend the use of these medications in children under the age of two.

2. For children older than two, the verdict is still out and these medications do come with side effects including a fast heart rate and possibly even convulsions.        

3. If you do choose to give these medications to the appropriate age group, make sure to read all the active ingredients. Some allergy medications and pain relievers can contain the same ingredients and can cause an overdose.

4. If you do chose to give one of this symptom relievers, they will not make the cold go away any sooner.

5. “Natural” homeopathic medications are still medications.  These medications contain active ingredients much the same as “regular” medications so you must first research the affects that can have on the body.  Not to mention, these products are not held to the same standards for FDA approval as other “regular” medications.

So with this in mind, what can you do if your child is unfortunate to get a cold? I always say think back to what your mother said, “Chicken soup is good for both the body and the soul.”  However, you don’t have to stop there, you can also:

Provide other warm liquids that can help break up thick mucus.

  • Use saline nasal sprays and cool mist humidifiers to moisten the airways.
  • Use cool liquids and food to heal a sore throat.
  • Use Tylenol or Ibuprofen for pain relief.  However never give Ibuprofen to children less than six months old and never give Aspirin to anyone younger than 18 years old.
  • Rest, rest, and rest some more.

In the end, the common cold is caused by a virus and just has to run its course.  There are no antibiotics to fight the common cold and usually symptoms should start to improve within a week.  However, if you or your children have a prolonged cold make sure to check in with you primary care provider to make sure your symptoms are truly from the common cold. 


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