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Child’s cold calls for basic care

Cold season is here, but many of the over-the-counter medicines used to relieve the coughs and sniffles and discomfort of ailing children are gone.

In October, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced a large-scale withdrawal of infant cough and cold medications in the wake of increasing concerns about the potential for overdose.

Initially, said Dr. Angela Redmond, a pediatrician at Pediatrics

East in Birmingham, Alabama, a lot of parents panicked,

wondering whether they’d inadvertently harmed their children by administering medicines that have since been pulled from shelves.

Now, she said, they are looking for advice on alternatives.

For infants suffering a cold, Redmond recommends simple remedies: plenty of fluids; acetaminophen or ibuprofen for fever; and saline drops and a bulb syringe for clearing out nasal passages.

In today’s society, we all want a quick-fix, so it can be frustrating for parents, she said, but “the nature of the cold virus is it just kind of needs to run its course.”

Supportive measures, she said, are all that are necessary.

Michael Hogue, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy, said frequent hand-washing is an important preventive measure.

The most common way illnesses spread among children is “dirty hands contacting other dirty hands,” he said, and parents might also consider periodically disinfecting toys.

In the wintertime, a humidifier can do a world of good, Hogue said.

Heating tends to keep homes very dry in the cold season; humidified air can greatly relieve cold symptoms, he said.

Over-the-counter medications are still available for older children, but pharmacists caution parents to follow instructions properly.

The problem with cough and cold medications has been that some parents have not followed dosage instructions, they say.

Infant drops are far more concentrated than syrups or other elixirs, so inadvertently administering a syrup-sized dose of the drops could be potentially toxic.

Most syrups provide instructions by age group.

Parents also should avoid mixing different medications, which may contain some of the same ingredients.

Many medications contain multiple ingredients for multiple symptoms, Hogue said.

But children may not need relief from all those symptoms. If a child with a stuffy nose, for example, gets a medication that also contains a cough suppressant, that medication could be producing side effects without providing any relief.

Hogue recommends using single-ingredient products for children and adults.

“The purpose here is to treat symptoms specifically,” he said.

A recent study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University, published last month on the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that buckwheat honey was more effective in relieving cough in children than a common cough suppressant.

Redmond said she doesn’t prescribe honey to patients, but, in children older than 2, “it can’t hurt.”

Redmond cautions that parents should avoid giving honey to children under 2 years old because there could be a risk of botulism.

Hogue said honey can help soothe the throat, but there’s nothing mystical or magical about it: so can hot chocolate, warm water, or a cough drop.

More than anything, Hogue recommends making a call to a doctor, particularly for children under 2, who may display symptoms from those of older children or adults.

If you don’t have the time to make an appointment, he said, most pediatricians’ offices have a nurses line parents can call for over-the-phone advice.

“It’s always an option to first call the doctor’s office,” Hogue said.

Information from: The Birmingham News

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