Over the counter (OTC) cough and cold remedies for kids are pretty popular.
They are coming in different flavors: bubblegum, grapes, strawberry, cherry, to please a kid’s palate.
But are they good?
As a mother of a 4 year old son, I must admit that as soon as he is running a fever I rush to the medicine cabinet and grab Advil or Tylenol, because we have them both, just in case.
The market for kids under six is about $80 million a year. No wonder the manufacturing companies will accommodate the kid’s palate.
But many doctors have been concerned about the ever increasing popularity of OTC kids’ cold remedies. It has been little public fuss about OTC medication for kids until a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel of experts recently concluded that there is no evidence that these products work and even more, that they should not be given to kids under six.
Even worse, cough and cold medication may not be safe for children. Some contain ingredients associated with neurological problems, arrhythmia and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Two major drug companies have voluntarily withdrawn their cough and cold products, including Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops and Tylenol Concentrated Infant Drops Plus Cold and Cough sold for kids under two.
Why are cold and cough medicines still sold even if they have been proved as not efficient? Because regulators like Health Canada and FDA have been slow to examine the claims and because of the long-held belief that what works in adults works in kids as well.
For at least five years, the Canadian Pediatric Society’s stance has been to not give children under three cold medications. For kids between three and six you were asked to consult the doctor first.
Health Canada only recently warned of ‘life-threatening adverse events, including unintentional overdose’ associated with the use of these products in children under two.
Why are OTC popular?
Not because they exist. Because we, as parents panic. Even if we think that maybe it’s best to let the cold run its course, we are desperate to give some fast comfort to our kids.
And sometimes it’s too scary to just rely on Vicks VapoRub and bed rest. Especially when the kid burns with high fever.
I remember one particular rough cold my son had. I gave him one dose of Advil; the fever did not subside; another one, same story. At that point I started a frantic search on the net, and I found out that I should switch between Advil and Tylenol if only one would not help.
Finally this is what I did : I wrapped his forehead and his hands in lukewarm compresses. The compresses were made by soaking towels in solution of vinegar and water. I changed and refreshed the compresses as soon as they got cold until the fever became more manageable.
For coughs he normally gets a natural syrup, made of pine young shoots.
But from a realistic point of view: what are we supposed to do when our children are sick and the daycare will not get them in, especially if they run a fever?
With this in mind I truly believe that most parents will try to find a balance to address the main concerns.