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Cold Medications Don't Work for Kids

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warns parents that over-the-counter drugs for relieving stuffiness, runny nose and coughs are not effective for children under the age of six.

Ian Paul, M.D. of Penn State Children’s Hospital, explains the results of his 2004 study. “The two ingredients used in most over-the-counter medications were no better than a placebo, non-medicated syrup, in providing nighttime relief for children with cough and sleep difficulty as a result of upper respiratory infection.”

The active ingredients in cold medications may cause additional side effects in children like drowsiness, upset stomach, hives, rapid heart rate, convulsion and even death. In 2008, 7,000 children under the age of 11 were treated in U.S. emergency rooms after taking too much cough or cold medication.

Parents should read labels carefully, noting the active ingredients. Do not give your child two medicines with similar active ingredients.

Recommended Cold Treatments for Children Under Six

For young children, soothe cold symptoms with children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen—good old-fashioned at-home remedies that have been scientifically proven to help relieve cold symptoms in children.

Honey: Clinical studies have concluded honey is an effective way to reduce coughing and improve sleep for children suffering from a cold.

Garlic: Garlic has been touted as a medicine for centuries. While research is limited, garlic may help ward off colds.

Cinnamon: Cinnamon has strong anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It is also a great source of manganese, fiber, iron, and calcium.

Colds are incredibly common in kids. The typical child will battle the common cold six to eight times each year. While options for fighting colds are few, moms and dads can sleep a little easier, if they are educated about the risks of over-the-counter cold medications and children.