By ASHLEY COKER
This cold and flu season, the Food and Drug Administration is urging parents to use caution when giving children over-the-counter cold medication.
Children under 2 should never be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine due to the significant risk of serious side effects, according to the FDA.
Reported side effects include convulsions, rapid heart rates and even death.
During 2004-05, the most recent year data is available, the FDA estimates 1,519 American children under 2 were treated in emergency rooms for side effects, including overdoses, associated with over-the-counter cough and cold medications.
For older children, some over-the-counter cold medicine may be used, but parents are encouraged to be careful and try other methods of symptom relief first.
Parents should never give children more than the recommended dosage of a product, administer doses too close together, or use more than one product containing the same drug.
This is because many cough and cold products contain multiple ingredients which can lead to accidental overdosing, according to the FDA.
Children should also never be given medication intended for adults.
The FDA provides the following alternative options for treating colds:
- A cool mist humidifier helps nasal passages shrink and allows easier breathing. Do not use warm mist humidifiers. They can cause nasal passages to swell and make breathing more difficult.
- Saline nose drops or spray keep nasal passages moist and help avoid stuffiness.
- Nasal suctioning with a bulb syringe — with or without saline nose drops — works very well for infants less than a year old. Older children often resist the use of a bulb syringe.
- Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to reduce fever and aches and pains. Parents should carefully read and follow the product’s instructions for use on the drug facts label.
- Drinking plenty of liquids will help children stay hydrated.