As for the parents who still choose to give their young children cough and cold medications, Dr. Allison Bartlett, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at La Rabida Children's Hospital in Chicago, said many people think these medications are safe because they're sold over the counter, and many parents may have taken these drugs when they were young, or they may have older children that to whom they gave the medications.
"Kids get so many colds; it's a frustrating problem. The temptation is there to give them over-the-counter medications that promise to make your kid feel better. But, under the age of 4, these medications are no better than giving a placebo and they carry a number of additional risks," Bartlett said.
"The discussion would be different if there was a benefit to these medications," she said. "But, they don't actually make kids better, and they expose children to unnecessary risks."
While these medications can ease symptoms in adults and older children, Bartlett said the nasal passages and airways in young children are so small that the slightest bit of inflammation from a cold or respiratory illness makes it harder to breath, and it also makes it harder to make an impact with any treatment.
Texas pediatrician Berg said that for children over 1 year of age, a teaspoon of honey several times a day can help quell a cough. You can give put it in tea or in water with lemon juice, he advised. The reason that children under 1 year old can't have honey is a risk of botulism in infants, he added.
Learn more about keeping medicines safely from the PROTECT initiative.
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