Parents who have a young child with a cough or a bad case of sniffles should talk to a pediatrician before giving any medications.
Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines may not work for children younger than 6 years and could be harmful in some cases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Food and Drug Administration warns parents not to give these medicines to children younger than 2 years unless told to do so by a medical professional.
“Cough and cold medicines affect children differently than adults and have the potential for serious side effects,” says Dr. Rhya Strifling, a pediatrician at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and an assistant professor of pediatrics in the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine.
“Drugs have the potential to build up in children because they may not have the ability to clear the medication as quickly,” Strifling says. “I never recommend giving cough and cold medicine to a child under 2 years and rarely to children under 6 years of age.”
Some of the following may relieve cold symptoms:
• Encourage lots of liquids, especially water.
• A vaporizer/humidifier or steam to reduce congestion. Clean humidifier daily.
• Nasal suction to remove mucus.
• Salt-water nose drops before eating or sleeping.
• Elevate head of the bed to relieve nighttime cough.
• A teaspoon of honey to relieve cough (but only if child is 1 year or older)