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Treat colds without drugs
Treating colds and the flu in kids, when you aren't supposed to give over-the-counter meds

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Date published: 11/2/2008

I REMEMBER the first cold my oldest had, when she was 2 months old. I was already a pediatrician, but I was sure that my baby had the worst cold on record. She was miserable--coughing all night, so stuffy she couldn't nurse, cranky, gagging on mucus. No one was sleeping.

Suctioning her with the bulb syringe made her scream, and the infant cough and cold medicine did nothing. So I hit the health-food store and tried everything that I thought might help: homeopathics, eucalyptus-oil chest rub, Echinacea, etc.

So, guess how long her cold lasted? Seven days. And for her next cold, I ran a vaporizer and used saline nose drops, and it lasted one week.

I've never been big on over-the-counter cold remedies, so it didn't upset me at all when the FDA issued the statement in January of this year that OTC cough and cold remedies should not be used in children under 2 years of age. All of the "infant" formulations of these medications were taken off the market voluntarily in October 2007.

Now, the manufacturers of the children's formulations of cough and cold medications are voluntarily changing labeling to read "Do not use in children under age 4."

The FDA supports this, but is not yet requiring it, so medications will not be removed from stores during this transition. Many in the field think that the FDA will ultimately say that these medications are not proven to be safe or effective in children under the age of 6.

However, some feel that taking all pediatric formulations off the market would be unwise, because parents would start using adult formulations on their children, and run an even greater risk of overdose.


So, what can you do to help your child feel better when he or she is suffering with a cold?

Chicken soup and other warm liquids really do help!

Herbal (decaffeinated) tea with honey can soothe a sore throat and quiet a cough. In fact, a study last year showed a spoonful of honey was a better cough suppressant than dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in most OTC cough suppressants. (No honey for children under the age of 1 year, though.)

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Always read and follow medicine labels exactly, and use the measuring device that comes with the medicine.

Do not give a medicine intended only for adults to a child.

Give only the medicine that treats your child's specific symptoms.

Never give two medicines at the same time that contain the same active ingredient.

Do not use oral cough and cold medicines for children under age 4.

Never use an over-the-counter medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.

Never give aspirin-containing products to a child for cold or flu symptoms unless told to do so by a doctor.

If your child develops any side effects or reactions that concern you, stop giving the over-the-counter medicine and contact a doctor immediately.

Keep all medicines out of your child's reach and sight.

Talk to a doctor, pharmacist or other health care provider if you have any questions.

Dr. Roxanne Allegretti is a pediatrician with Preferred Pediatrics in Fredericksburg.