Ask Dr. Nandi: Skip the cold meds for kids under 6, experts say

Posted at 5:42 PM, Oct 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-16 11:09:59-04

Fall and winter is the perfect time to catch a cold. And parents know all too well that children easily pass germs to each other, especially in places like schools and daycares.  

But what medication is safe that provides relief for kids who are miserably sick? 

As a Father, I know how horrible kids can feel when they've got a cold. They’re coughing, and often dealing with a stuffy nose or a runny one.  

It makes sense that parents want to alleviate their kid’s symptoms to make them feel better. But it’s important to not give children under the age of six an over-the-counter cough and cold medications that contain decongestants or antihistamines.  

Recent research not only found no evidence that they provide adequate relief for runny or stuffy noses, but they found over-the-counter meds can potentially harm your child. Some of the decongestants can cause convulsions and hypertension.  

Researchers also found interactions like a racing heart, which could be dangerous for those with underlying conditions.  

And if you’re thinking of using home remedies instead, like heated air humidifiers, vapor rub, probiotics or the popular herb echinacea, know that the researchers also found inadequate evidence to support these methods as well.

So what can you do when your child is sick and desperately wants to feel better?  Well, here are my prescriptions:

  1. Try using saline nasal irrigation or drops. They are safe to use. However, they may or may not relieve a stuffy nose.
  2. If your child has a fever, aches or pains, you can give them acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Just be sure to read the label and give them the correct dose.
  3. A cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier might help your child breathe easier. They moisten the air and can help shrink nasal passages.
  4. Lastly, make sure kids drink lots of fluids. It’s important for them to be hydrated and it may also help thin mucus.

When it comes to the common cold, they are usually caused by viruses. And symptoms typically take 7 to 10 days to clear up.  

I recommend telling your children what I tell mine, and that is to wash your hands frequently with soap and water, cough into your elbow and try to avoid being close to anyone who appears sick.