We’ve all heard that there’s no cure for the common cold, but we happily run to the drugstore for the pills and liquids that claim to help alleviate our symptoms when we start to cough or sniffle. The same goes for our kids when we notice them catching a cold, but according to a new review in The BMJ, over-the-counter cold and cough medications for kids are pretty much ineffective. And even worse? For kiddos under six, those meds could actually do more harm than good.
Study author Dr. Mieke van Driel says there’s really not much parents can do with medication to relieve their child’s discomfort from a cold. “Unfortunately, our research shows there’s very little evidence,” that over-the-counter cold medicines help with kids’ symptoms. She admits, they “were actually quite amazed by how little there was” to be enthusiastic about.
According to the research, the only potentially beneficial treatment for kids is a simple saline nasal irrigation. All the decongestants, cough suppressants and antihistamines didn’t show evidence they help the symptoms. And not only do they not really help, there are risks in giving them to young kids. The FDA originally recommended against using over-the-counter cold and cough medicines in children under two and the American Academy of Pediatrics has now extended that to apply to kids up to six.
So what are parents supposed to do when their kiddos come down with a cold or cough? Doctors say “buckle in and try to get as comfortable as possible.” Dr. Shonna Yin advises offering plenty of fluids and honey for a cough for kids over one - no honey for babies. The Mayo Clinic also recommends pain relievers and running a humidifier, and a saltwater gargle for kids over six with a sore throat. If there’s any sign of respiratory difficulty or high fever or signs of the flu, like shaking and chills, that’s when it’s time to head to the doctor.