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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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October 02 2007

Cold Remedies and Cough Drops Aren’t Safe for Children

By Mark Sisson
10 Comments

Dozens of different medications are available to treat a child’s sniffles, sneezes and coughs, but I’d caution against using any of them. From Triaminic to Robitussin – which has built a kiddy cold empire by treating cold symptoms individually – increasingly prevalent health concerns have snapped the FDA from its usual sloth. You can read more about the cough syrup warning here. Just as medical research presumed for decades that women’s bodies were exactly like men’s (and therefore did not merit specific research), drug companies have taken it for granted that children are simply small adults. Not so. Cough and cold remedies for infants and children represent a massive revenue stream for OTC drug makers, so you can imagine the scrambling going on in board rooms right now.

From the Wall Street Journal:

“The FDA said Friday it had 54 reports of deaths in children linked to decongestants containing the ingredients pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine and ephedrine from 1969 to Sept. 13, 2006, and 69 reports of deaths linked to antihistamines with the ingredients diphenhydramine, brompheniramine and chlorpheniramine. The agency said the bulk of the reports were in children younger than 2.”

It’s far safer, and probably better anyway, to treat your children’s cold discomfort with natural methods. Menthol rubs, humidifiers, hot water bottles, ice packs, chicken noodle soup or broth, seltzer water, and rest are all helpful. While it’s not pleasant to see your child feeling miserable, remember that occasional colds are helping to build your child’s immune system. A “cold” is really the collection of symptoms that indicate the body is doing exactly what it’s supposed to do. Unless a cold persists beyond a week – or if symptoms are really severe – you can probably forgo the drugs. If you are really concerned, call the pediatrician, of course.

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10 thoughts on “Cold Remedies and Cough Drops Aren’t Safe for Children”

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  1. One problem is that parents load their kids up on cold medicines so they can go to school. Now, everyone in the class is sick.
    When I was growing up, I survived viruses without any meds.

  2. I wonder how many deaths and other side effects manifested for adults taking these over-the-counter remedies?

    Remedies is an oxymoron in this case.

  3. I agree with Crystal. The school sickness seems to be never ending and this is more than likely why. Just one cold after another.

  4. Usually I give my daughter some Triaminic Cold & Cough when she’s feeling ill and send her off to school. After reading this post, I’ll have to rethink that strategy.

    The difficult thing when it comes to kids being sick during the school year is knowing when to keep them home and when to send them in. From what I understand, you’re most contagious at the beginning stages of the virus, especially so when you’re not sure if you’re ill yet or not, because then you’re not taking the precautions necessary to prevent your sickness from spreading to others. If I remember correctly, there is less viral shedding, and thus decreased risk of infecting others, toward the end of the illness.

    I don’t think I can keep her home every time she gets the sniffles, as their calendar year is fairly strict in terms of how much they can miss before suffering negative consequences. Kids in general do seem to get sick fairly often, but most of the time they’re able to roll with it fairly well, as long as you keep them occupied so that they don’t focus on how ill they feel. I find that once she gets into something, be it playing, reading or whatever, she usually forgets about feeling under the weather.

    Maybe if more parents kept their children home when they were sick, we could stop the endless cycle of infection that seems to persist in schools. However, that may require to great of a concerted effort, and the calendar year certainly doesn’t look kindly on kids missing school.

    I think in the future I’m going to emphasize healthier eating, more sleep and perhaps some more fun activities when she, or my wife and I for that matter, are sick. This is stuff that we could all use anyway in greater doses.

  5. Missing school is hard, especially 7th grade and up. More hand washing needed. If we(especially kids) could learn to keep our hands out of our eyes, nose, and mouth, we’d be much better off….wishful thinking, I guess. I have two kids that never get sick. I can’t remember my 14 year old ever missing school for an illness. He’s never had a cavity either. However, my 10 year old catches a cold about 3 times a school year.