WASHINGTON — Some pediatricians are urging parents to get rid of common cough and cold medicines.
“In general, we do advise against their use in young children because there have been reports of serious and potentially life-threatening side effects,” said Dr. Deena Berkowitz, an emergency medicine specialist with the Children’s National Health System.
The side effects are relatively rare, Berkowitz said. In her emergency room, they often occur because children were given too much too often, or because parents combined several medications.
They up the meds because they think their child is not getting any better. They don’t realize “cough and cold medications [don’t] really treat the cold or make it end any faster,” Berkowitz said.
She points to studies that show these medicines are not effective in young children, saying the Food and Drug Administration has determined they should not be used in kids under 2.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has even tougher recommendations, saying the medication should not be used in children under 6.
Berkowitz says there’s really no reason to give them to any child — even a teenager. While there is evidence these drugs may alleviate cold symptoms in teens, there are other reasons to keep them out of the family medicine cabinet.
“The real concern is having pseudoephedrine in the home unmonitored, because we know that is a drug that can potentially be abused,” she explained.
Specifically, there are four categories of cold medicine in question. They include cough suppressants that contain dextromethorphan, cough expectorants, decongestants with pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine, and certain antihistamines.
Parents should check labels carefully and never give children medications designated only for adults. They also need to make sure their child is not taking multiple medicines with the same type of active ingredients.
But in the end, a cold simply has to run its course. Drink lots of fluids, get rest and maybe use a vaporizer.
Try a little child-strength acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motren) for fever and aches, Berkowitz said.
The bottom line: Keep in touch with your pediatrician and check before giving any over-the-counter cold and cough medications.