Janet Marshall is the editor of The Free Lance-Star's Healthy Living section and Healthy Life Virginia newsletter. She thinks most things are fine in moderation.
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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.”