Doctors are warning parents not to give children younger than 6 years old decongestants to treat coughs and colds

By Maura Hohman
November 07, 2018 01:40 PM
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Doctors are warning parents not to give children less than 6 years old decongestants to treat coughs and colds as the most popular time for such symptoms is right around the corner.

New research published last month in the BMJ shows there isn’t enough evidence that over-the-counter medications with antihistamines actually relieve a stuffy or runny nose, and when the patient is young enough, it can actually be harmful. In addition, The New York Times reports cough suppressants don’t actually help kids cough less.

What’s more, according to Consumer Affairs, these medications can result in insomnia, drowsiness, headache and upset stomach for adults. In kids, hypertension and convulsions are also possibilities.

Pediatricians recommend skipping medicines with antihistamine altogether for children younger than 6 and using them with great caution for kids between 6 and 12 years old.

Other, safer treatments for cough and cold symptoms include acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol) or ibuprofen (children’s Motrin) for fever, aches and pains, as well as a cool-mist humidifier and saline drops for congestion. Staying hydrated is also crucial.

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Consumer Affairs warns against other treatments the study found unhelpful: heated air, humidified steam, echinacea, probiotics and eucalyptus oil.

Since manufacturers and various health groups, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Food and Drug Administration, have taken steps to prevent parents from giving such medication to their kids, there has been a decline in related ER visits among children.

In the past, these medications have been connected to hallucination, cardiac arrhythmias, depressed levels of consciousness and more.

The Times advises parents to be able to tell the difference between the common cold and symptoms that might indicate something more serious, such as breathing difficulty, shaking and chills, which all can be signs of the flu.

In general, though, a child’s immune system can take care of a cold in a week to 10 days.