Using Over The Counter Drugs TO Treat Cold Symptoms
Do not give cough and cold medications to babies and children under 6 years old without first talking to your doctor. The only exceptions are drugs used to treat fever (such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen).
What should I do if my child has a cold?
Contact your doctor if your child shows any of the following signs:
- fever lasting more than 72 hours, or, any fever in a child less than 6 months of age
- excessive sleepiness, crankiness or fussiness
- trouble breathing
- less urination (peeing)
- coughing that lasts more than a week or is causing choking or vomiting
Should I use OTC medications when my child has a cold?
When your child is sick, you want them to feel better. Many parents turn to over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for help. Except for pain and fever drugs, there is no proof that they work. In fact, some of the side effects can make your child feel even worse.There is also a risk of giving your child too much medicine, such as acetaminophen on top of a cough syrup that already contains acetaminophen. Never use more than one product at the same time unless advised by your doctor.
Common over-the-counter medications
Many OTC cough and cold products contain drugs that claim to ease coughing. Usually they include dextromethorphan (also called DM) and/or diphenhydramine. Codeine is another drug that is used to calm coughing in children. Some OTC drugs contain codeine, but in most cases, you need a prescription.
Most studies of these drugs have been done in adults. The few that have been done in children show no benefit.
Nasal drops or sprays
Pain and fever relievers
The most common OTC pain relievers are acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), acetaminophen and ibuprofen. Products with acetylsalicylic acid (such as Aspirin) should not be given to children and teenagers for fever from colds, chickenpox and influenza (flu) because it can cause Reyes syndrome, a sickness that can cause brain and liver damage.
For fever and mild to moderate pain in children, you should use acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Acetaminophen is found in products such as Tylenol, Tempra, Panadol and others. Ibuprofen is found in products such as Advil or Motrin. They come in drops for infants, liquid for toddlers, and chewable tablets for older children.
Ibuprofen should only be given if your child is drinking reasonably well. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under 6 months without first talking to your doctor. Do not use ibuprofen or acetaminophen with any other pain reliever or fever reducer, unless your doctor advises. Remember that some cold medicines include these products with other drugs.
Be sure to read labels carefully to see what the products contain so that you don’t give your child a double dose of the same drug. Different medications have different amounts of acetaminophen, for example. These drugs are generally safe and they do help ease pain and fever. But taking too much of any drug or using it for a long period of time can be harmful.
Medication is not always needed to reduce a child’s temperature. Talk to your doctor if your baby (under 6 months) has a fever.
Natural health products
“Natural” doesn’t always mean safe. Some substances can be harmful if you take too much of them, while others can cause side effects or allergic reactions.
Even if a product is safe for adults, it may not be safe for children. Children are still growing and developing, and their bodies may respond differently to a product or medicine than adults’ bodies.
Natural health products can interact with other drugs, even nonprescription drugs. Talk to your child’s doctor before you give a natural health product.