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The Informed Parent

Cold Season For Infants And Toddlers

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Nov. 17, 2008

It’s that time of year again when runny, drippy noses and eyes, congestion, and cough seem to be daily battles for our families. Cold, or upper respiratory symptoms, are one of the main complaints we often hear about in the office. Frustrating and fatiguing, these symptoms interlink with each other to repeat the course children were just getting over. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that children under the age of two should not be given over-the-counter cold remedies. There is consideration ongoing to extend this restriction to older children as well.

Much of the concern and the current restrictions on over-the-counter cough and cold medications stem from the lack of evidence that these medications help resolve common colds. It is a fact that generally the cold runs its course and resolves without intervention over five-to-eight days.

Secondly, these cough and cold medications have been linked to medication overdoses. Without strict label reading or knowledge of individual ingredients, often products with the same or similar medications have been unintentionally combined. This poses significant risks of medication interaction and overdose to the child. For these reasons, pediatricians are not supporting the use of over-the-counter cough and cold medication for infants and toddlers.

Parents may use several other modalities to help relieve their child’s symptoms this season. Nasal bulb suction with saline can help clear small nasal passages of profuse mucous. This should be done in moderation so that the irritation of the nasal passage does not cause secondary swelling. A cool air humidifier may be used. Place it more closely to the crib or bed to hydrate the air and ease the throat irritated from constant coughing. Parents may sit or stand in the shower with their child for fifteen or twenty minutes prior to bedtime. This helps drain mucous and open nasal passages, thereby easing bedtime and sleep when post nasal drainage tends to cause more symptoms for a child lying down.

As a result of the restrictions on over-the-counter medications, many companies have come up with alternate or homeopathic remedies. Many of these are simple saline solutions. Parents must be diligent in reading labels and knowing what they are giving their child. Any questions regarding these types of medications can and should be discussed with your pediatrician. And remember…wash your hands! Preventing these viruses is a lot easier than waiting them out!

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