Let Children Cough

We are well into the cold and flu season, and with children back in school, upper respiratory infections are on the rise.  The most common symptoms are cough, runny nose, and sneezing.  While it is tempting to reach for an over-the-counter product to treat your child’s symptoms, the best medical advice is DON’T.

The Food and Drug Administration has recommended against the use of any over-the-counter cough and cold preparations for children under 2 years of age.  The American Academy of Pediatrics has extended that recommendation to all children up to age 6.

There is limited to no evidence that over-the-counter cough and cold medications are effective in children under 6.  Studies have NOT shown that cough medications, usually containing dextromethorphan, help children cough less, or that decongestants and antihistamines help them to sleep better.  Furthermore, they may cause excessive sedation or cardiac arrhythmias.

A study done in 2007 showed that honey(for children older than 1) was more effective than dextromethorphan in relieving cough.  Other useful(and safe) remedies include plenty of fluids, saline nose drops and head elevation.

Cold symptoms will generally last for about one week, although a dry cough can last longer.  There are symptoms that suggest that a child has more than just a cold and should be examined by a doctor.  These include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, high fever, and colored mucous.

The bottom line is skip the medication aisle when your child has a cold.  Instead, make them more comfortable with honey, liquids and chicken soup.  If there are concerning symptoms, or no improvement after a week, call your doctor.

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