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Coughing Up the Truth

Filed Under: Baby and Child Health at 5:01 pm | By: Susan Coyle, Senior Editor
Cough MedicineWhat do you do when little Timmy starts coughing? If he’s an infant, you may reach for the cough medicine, fill up the dropper and coax the liquid into his mouth. If he’s a toddler, you reach for the same or a similar medication, pour out the appropriate dosage, chase him through the house and hope that half of the remedy makes it into his body. If he’s old enough to remember the last time, you spend half an hour trying to convince him that “cherry flavored” could taste better than he thinks. When it doesn’t, you try to shield your body from the subsequent gag/spew. No matter what the age, Timmy’s cold-induced cough has you reaching for an over-the-counter medication and struggling to get him to take it. But, all the hassle isn’t worth it, and it might not even be as healthful as you think.

The FDA recently reexamined the safety and efficacy of common children’s cough-and-cold medicines. Most of these products already carry a warning to parents, advising them to consult a doctor before using. The FDA, however, now recommends that they, particularly decongestants for children under two and antihistamines for children under 6, not be given to kids at all and has begun recalling them. It has also banned any unapproved hydrocodone products (medications commonly used for pain and cough suppression), since the remedies are not effective and can often be harmful. In fact between 2004 and 2005, 1,500 toddlers suffered severe health problems after taking such medications. This means that you, the parent, will have to find a different treatment for the common cold and accompanying cough.

Sadly, no treatment will cure a cold. Young or old, the common cold is one of the few ailments we can’t eradicate from our bodies with a specific remedy. We can, however, take steps to lessen the virus’ intensity. As adults, we have more options than our children. Cough/cold medicines are less dangerous for us, but they don’t always work. And the treatments that do may carry harmful, long-term side effects. Therefore, when facing a cold, we should, with ourselves and with our children, fall back on the traditional remedies.  Lots of liquid maintains hydration and loosens congestion. Choose non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages, such as water, juice, clear broth or warm lemon-water with honey. Gargling salt water eases the sore throat produced by the hacking. Humidity, via a humidifier, ruins the dry air cold viruses thrive in. And as old wives’ tale as it may be, chicken noodle soup works wonders. 

You already have everything you need to dampen the common cold’s annoyance in your kitchen. You don’t need the cold medicine, and you definitely don’t need the hassle it comes with.

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