As winter hits, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is advising parents and caregivers to properly take care of their children's colds to reduce medicine and safety issues.
How parents or caregivers should treat colds depends on the age of the child, but many colds do not require medication and the FDA does not recommend using over-the-counter cold and cough remedies for children younger than 2.
For young children and infants, cold and cough medications can be dangerous and potentially life-threatening because they contain ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, diphenhydramine or other strong ingredients. In 2008, manufacturers removed products intended for children younger than 2 from store shelves and voluntarily relabeled their cold and cough medicines as not appropriate for children under the age of 4. The reasons behind the adjustment were that children can overdose on these medications and there were many reported incidents of children accidentally ingesting the products or dosage errors.
The FDA warned that consumers should follow the directions and warning labels on all OTC medications and not give these products to children younger than what is recommended on the package. Additionally, parents and caregivers should pay close attention to the dosing instructions and keep the remedies out of children's reach when they are not in use.
Tips to relieve cold symptoms
The FDA reminded consumers that some cold symptoms, like coughing, are not bad. In fact coughing is a sign that the body is clearing the airways and lungs of mucus so it should not be suppressed.
For children with a fever or muscle aches, the FDA recommended using acetaminophen or ibuprofen per their instructions. Clogged nasal passages can be relieved by using saline nose drops, or for young children, nasal suctioning with a bulb syringe. Additionally, a cold mist humidifier can improve breathing. Warm mist humidifiers should be avoided because they can make breathing more difficult for children.
When to call a physician
Many colds can be treated at home, but some signs warrant calling a pediatrician or visiting an out-patient clinic, such as:
- Fever or cold symptoms in baby less than three months old
- Labored breathing or wheezing
- Fever higher than 102 degrees
- Signs of dehydration
- Not eating
- Ear pain
- Blue lips
- Symptoms that last more than three weeks
- Worsening symptoms
These symptoms may indicate the child has an illness more serious than a cold.