Donya Currie is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Life section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter.

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Treating sniffly kids

Parents of young children have been advised for quite a while now not to treat their kids with over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. So I asked Dr. Roxanne Allegretti, a local pediatrician, what she recommends to relieve congestion and coughs in suffering kids. Here’s her advice:

  • Try saline drops or a saline spray for nasal congestion. Or, “flush the sinuses with a “neti-pot” or other nasal rinse of saline,” Allegretti said in an e-mail.
  • A humidifier can help kids with a croupy cough or stuffed nose, but be sure to keep it clean so  mold and bacteria don’t build up in it.
  • In otherwise healthy children, a nasal decongestant spray like Afrin or Neosynephrine can provide some immediate relief. “But it must be limited to ONLY 3 days of use or it can become addictive, and the lower strengths should be used for the younger kids (like Little Noses Decongestant Nose Drops),” Allegretti wrote.
  • Benadryl can help some kids at bedtime. “I will occasionally recommend using an antihistamine like Benadryl at night to try to dry up the drippy nose and reduce the cough from post nasal drip. This is usually ok even in younger kids, but you would need to check with your health care provider for dosing on babies and toddlers, and make sure  you are NOT using a combo antihistamine/decongestant or antihistamine/cough suppressant med.”

As for those cough and cold medicines, “Under the age of 6, we are not supposed to use cough suppressants like dextramethorphan or decongestants orally like pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine,” wrote Allegretti, who practices with Preferred Pediatrics in Fredericksburg.

Read labels to spot the ingredients, but dextramethorphan, for instance, is commonly found in Robitussin. As the American Academy of Pediatrics says, when it comes to children, these medicines “have not been proven effective and can be harmful.”


  • Maxx

    >“Under the age of 6, we are not supposed to use cough suppressants like dextramethorphan…”

    Not only that, but no studies have shown that dextromethorphan is even effective in adults as a cough suppressant.

  • ucbatman2

    Dr. Allegretti is such a great doctor! She was our kids’ pediatrician when she practiced in North Stafford. We miss her.

  • bad breath

    When I notice a client has halitosis/bad breath or complains of post nasal drip and tonsil stones despite having healthy teeth & gums, my advice is they visit the site of Oraltech Labs. I can report clients return visits have undetectable Halitosis/bad breath. So if all else fails try them. USA & UK. Association of Dental Health