Last updated: August 23. 2013 4:09PM - 140 Views

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A cough, a sneeze, a runny nose. When a child exhibits any of these cold symptoms, parents want to make it better. Oftentimes, that means reaching into the family medicine cabinet for the children’s cold/cough remedies.Recently, however, parents, doctors and the U.S. government are thinking twice about the medicines they give their children.In the fall of 2007, the Food and Drug Administration began urging parents not to give cold and cough medications to children under age 2. The warnings came after an FDA review of records filed between 1969 and September 2006 showed 54 reports of deaths in children associated with decongestant medicines made with pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine, according to a report by MSNBC.The FDA also found 69 reports of deaths associated with antihistamine medications. In response, many of these products were pulled from store shelves voluntarily by the companies that manufacture them.According to Kristen Finley, an assistant professor of pharmacy for Ohio Northern University, these products were also voluntarily pulled from shelves because of other side effects small children could experience if the medications are taken incorrectly. These include rapid heart rate, decreased levels of consciousness, confusion, irritability and convulsions.While the risk of death is relatively low, these medications do little to help children overcome colds and get healthy, said Karri Krendl, a physician at Lima Family Physicians. Colds usually go away on their own within five to 10 days. However, these cold/cough remedies could prolong a cold by dehydrating a child and worsening the ability to fight infection. Parents tend to administer the medications anyway, however, always with the best of intentions.‘These medicines might kill the symptoms, but they don’t do a lot of good,” she said. “But for parents, it’s hard for them to sit and watch their child be stuffy. They think it’s nicer to do something than do nothing.”According to Beth Bish, a nurse practitioner at Lima Pediatrics, the benefits associated with cold/cough medications for children are too few, and the risks too many, to make using the products worthwhile.“If this stuff doesn’t work, why are we giving to kids in the first place?” she said. “If it could kill them, why even have it out?”Combination cold/cough products also have separate risks associated with them, Krendl said, among them giving children medications they don’t need.“If you look at combination products, they’re for fever, cough, congestion and allergy,” she said, “but (sick children) probably don’t have all those symptoms, so they don’t need to have all that in their systems.”Rather than invest money in OTC remedies, health professionals advise parents to try other homeopathic remedies to alleviate cold symptoms.To deal with congestion, Bish recommended using a bulb syringe to remove mucus from the nose. Saline (salt water) also helps loosen mucus in the nose, making it easier to get rid of it. Humidifiers can sometimes help alleviate congestion and cough.Some of the most basic home remedies and creature comforts can benefit children more than OTC medications, Krendl said, or at least ease their symptoms and make them more comfortable. Make sure children receive plenty of fluids. Chicken soup can sooth and helps hydrate, while Tylenol can help with fever and aching.Parents should make a point of involving their child’s doctors when treating them for a cold, both Bish and Krendl said. Only administer cold/cough medications under the doctor’s direction, and if cold symptoms are worsening, the child should be examined.“Don’t use anything without the doctor knowing about it,” Krendl said. “If a child is getting worse, they need to be seen. We don’t do well with over-the-phone advice. It’s too hard to do.”

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