As cold weather sets in, so do the nagging coughs and head colds that seem to spread so quickly from child to child.
But before you head to the drug store, be careful. There are concerns being raised about children getting into cough and cold medicines and accidentally overdosing, and the health team at Consumer Reports say the dangers are very real.
A recent study in the journal Pediatrics identified more than 3,200 cases of kids younger than 12 years old who suffered serious side effects, including hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and even death – many as a result of accidentally ingesting too much cough and cold medicine.
While you should never give cough and cold medicine to kids under 4, beyond that, the health team at Consumer Reports says there's not a lot of evidence they work very well anyway – and suggests trying some home remedies instead.
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You want to keep kids hydrated, with things like warm drinks, soup or decaffeinated tea – those things may loosen congestion and soothe a sore throat. For kids 1-year-old and over, try adding a bit of honey, which some research has shown can be as effective at relieving a cough as some over-the-counter cough drugs. Kids 5 and older can suck on a sugar-free lozenge or candy, which can reduce the urge to cough and soothe an irritated throat, as can mixing a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water for a gargling solution.
If you do have young children at home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to put medications up and away: out of children's reach and sight. They also say it's smart to put medications away every time you use them, and never leave them out on a kitchen counter or a sick child's bedside – even if you have to give it again in a few hours. And, always lock the cap on a medicine bottle. If the bottle has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click or cannot twist it any more.