Back in 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and coldmedication should not be used in infants and children under the age of two, and Willows Pediatrics agrees. The FDA found that these products could cause serious and potentially life-threatening side effects in young children including convulsions, rapid heart rates, decreased levels of consciousness and death. This recommendation led to a voluntary recall of these types of products marketed to children under two.
OTC cough and cold medicines include these ingredients: decongestants (for unclogging a stuffy nose), expectorants (for loosening mucus so that it can be coughed up), antihistamines (for sneezing and runny nose), and antitussives (for quieting coughs). The terms on the label include “nasal decongestants”, “cough suppressants”, “expectorants” and “antihistamines.”
We hope that parents will take these warnings seriously, but it appears that some have not. This year, researchers released the surprising and concerning results of a survey. Parents were asked if they gave OTC cough and cold medications to their children (ages 6 months to 2 years) and found that 61 percent had done so! Two thirds of the parents said they used the medications so their child could sleep better or be more comfortable.
While we absolutely believe in keeping sick children comfortable, in this case the risks outweigh the benefits. Not only do these OTC medications pose potential dangers for young children, but they have also not been proven to be effective.
The use of saline nose drops, a cool mist humidifier and nasal suctioning can take care of many of your infant’s cold symptoms. Always keep your child hydrated. And, when necessary, fever can be reduced with appropriate doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (We blogged recently about the importance of the careful and thoughtful administration of fever reducers. Click here to learn more. Also, please remember that fever in infants often requires an office visit – call us before simply giving an infant under six months of age a fever reducer.) Finally, since we still don’t have a cure for the common cold, we always recommend soothing music and a hug!
Good luck getting through cold and flu season, and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have concerns about your young child’s cold or cough.