It’s cold season again

Written by Contributor. Posted in Health & Wellness

Published on January 18, 2012 with No Comments

Throw on top of that Flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) and we’ve got a lot of kids coughing out there.  Unfortunately, our options for helping our children through these illnesses have decreased in the past few years.

The main reason for this is that for years the cold relief medications we were giving were the very ones that we took ourselves as kids.  The FDA grandfathered these in as “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS).  It should be remembered, however, that whatever safety and effectiveness research had been done was done on adults.  It is for this reason that there have been no new cold medications for children made in the last 20 years, only new packaging and combinations.

New research has begun looking at how these medications affected children, for good and bad.  The end result of these studies is that while there are variable improvements in cold symptoms (usually minimal) the risk of side effects goes up in the very young.  As a result, guidelines have been set that these medications should not be used in children under the age of four.

There are a few exceptions.  Tylenol and ibuprofen can still be given for discomfort and fever associated with these illnesses but will do nothing for congestion, drainage and cough.  Benadryl can still be given for allergies with your doctor’s guidance but they, like most of the cold medicines out there, seem to have much of their cold relief due to sedation, essentially “knocking out” the child.

So what can be done for our children?

Well, Grandma had it half-right with “starve a fever, feed a cold”.  Make sure your child has plenty to drink and try to keep the nutrition going.  Not eating, however, is a bad idea for any illness. And be aware that with a fever digestion can be slowed, so you may wish to go with more nutrition in a smaller package. 

As for symptom relief, you can still give children older than four cold medications, just be careful about it.  Read the labels, observe your child carefully, keep it out of the child’s reach and let only one person in the house be the one to give it.

For all children, including those younger than four, there are still many things that can be done to help.  Cool mist vaporizers keep the air moist and comfortable.   Salt water nose drops and rinses do a very good job of clearing the junk in their noses.  Drinking warm liquids, particularly those with a hint of spice, can help thin out the drainage. 

As for suppressing cough, here’s one that threw me for a loop.  A teaspoon of honey has been shown as effective, if not more, than a teaspoon of honey -flavored cough suppressant.   Just be sure to not give it to a child before their first birthday.

Finally, remember that regardless of the type of cold or flu, they are viral in nature and can last 7-10 days.  Antibiotics will not help it, so help your doctor keep these medications effective for when we need them.

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