We know that cough and cold medicines have not been proven effective in young children. We also know they can cause serious side effects. So the next time the little one gets sick, why not give the tried-and-true a new try? Add humidity to the air. Physically remove mucus from the nose. Spray a bit of nasal saline up there while you're at it. Such is the advice published in the May issue of the journal Otolaryngology -- Head and Neck Surgery.
In a commentary about children's cold medicines, the authors -- a pharmacy professor at Drake University in Des Moines and a pediatric otolaryngologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore -- write of the harm that such seemingly benign over-the-counter drugs can pose. And they firmly endorse truly benign alternatives.
"Parents may administer these products to children with good intentions, as these medications are widely used to treat adults with upper respiratory infections. Data supporting their efficacy, however, do not exist. Evidence of the potential for significant harm from the use of these products in young children does exist."
The choice would seem clear.
The authors go on to tell otolaryngologists to get with the program and recommend such measures to parents and caregivers.
The Food and Drug Administration seems unlikely to argue. Here's the FDA recommendation on over-the-counter medications for children 2 and younger. In three words: Don't do it. The agency then offers (seemingly reluctantly) practical advice for those parents who think they simply must give such medications to older kids.
The Mayo Clinic offers this overview of cold remedies. Gargling with salt water, administering saline nasal drops and spray, using a humidifier -- all are on the might-help list. Antibiotics, obviously, are not.
Adults themselves will probably remain committed to popping a pill at the first sign of a sniffle or scratchy throat, but perhaps they can learn from their kids' experiences. Maybe they'll give those home remedies a try themselves. (Except for the nasal suctioning.)
-- Tami Dennis
Photo credit: Bob Carey / Los Angeles Times