SAN ANTONIO – As the fall weather sets in, so do the nagging coughs and head colds that seem to spread so quickly, especially in children.
New research shows some cough and cold medicines intended to help children feel better can also hurt them if they take too much. They’re generally safe when used as directed, but many of the problems happen when kids help themselves.
A recent study in The Journal of Pediatrics identified more than 3,200 cases of children younger than 12 who suffered serious side effects, including hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and even death — many as a result of accidentally ingesting too much cough and cold medicine.
“They can be tempting. Some might be colorful. Some might be tasty. The really important thing is they’re kept away from kids,” said Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports’ health editor.
Parents should never give cough and cold medicine to children under the age of 4. The health team at Consumer Reports said there’s not a lot of evidence they work very well and suggest trying home remedies instead.
“You want to keep kids hydrated with things like warm drinks, soup or decaffeinated tea. Those things may loosen congestion and soothe a sore through,” Gill said.
For children 1-year-old and up, try adding a bit of honey to warm drinks. Research has shown it can be as effective as some over the counter cough drugs.
Children 5 and older can suck on a lozenge or candy, which can reduce the urge to cough and soothe an irritated throat.
Another suggested home remedy includes mixing a half-teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water for gargling.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises those who do use cough and cold medicines to put them away after each use and not leave them out on the kitchen counter or bedside.