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Video:Cold Medicine and Kids

with Dr. Mona Khanna

Make sure you have all the information you need about over-the-counter cold medicines for children.See Transcript

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Transcript:Cold Medicine and Kids

It doesn't matter how persistent you are about getting your kids to wash their hands, or how careful you are to keep them away from the neighbor kid with the runny nose. Kids get sick. And when your child has aches, pains, and a fever, it's no fun at all, for either of you.

Cautions About Cold Medicine and Kids

These days, there are plenty of over-the-counter remedies that promise to ease your child's symptoms. But before you reach for a bottle of children's pain reliever or cold medicine, here are a few things to think about.

The first is that while over-the-counter medications can make your child feel better, they don't actually help them get better. And cold remedies make some kids irritable or nervous, which can make it hard for them to sleep. So if your child has a low fever and a drippy nose but seems fine otherwise, there's probably no need to run to the medicine cabinet. In addition, you should never give children under 2 over-the-counter drugs without consulting your doctor first. Also, never give aspirin to kids under 16. It can cause a rare but dangerous condition called Reye's syndrome. And if your child is taking a prescription drug, check with their doctor before giving them an over-the-counter medication.

When to Use Cold Medicine for Kids

On the other hand, if a fever, cough, or runny nose is keeping your child from sleeping, an over-the-counter drug might be just the thing to help them get some needed rest. Keep in mind that different drugs treat different symptoms. For aches and pains or a fever, acetaminophen, better known as Tylenol, or ibuprofen are probably your best bets.

For a runny nose, there are:
  • Antihistamines
  • Decongestants
To treat cough symptoms:
  • Expectorants
  • Suppressants
Some cold remedies combine these drugs, often with a fever reducer. The trick is to match the medication to the specific symptom that is making your child miserable. If the problem is just a runny nose, there's no reason to give her a cold remedy that includes a cough suppressant and acetaminophen, too. If you do decide that medicine will help, the first rule is to always read the directions carefully.

Measure Cold Medicine for Kids

Use your child's weight to decide on the proper dosage. Be sure to use the measuring device that came with the medication. Measuring caps aren't interchangeable from bottle to bottle. And kitchen spoons aren't accurate enough for measuring medicines. Also be very careful if you give your child more than one over-the-counter medication at a time to make sure you aren't accidentally giving them a double dose of something.

Administer Cold Medicine to Kids

One thing that is getting easier is getting your child to take their medicine. Most medications come in a range of enticing flavors. There are new options, too, including tablets that melt in your child's mouth and thin strips that dissolve on the tongue.

If it's just a garden variety cold, remember that it doesn't actually matter if your child takes their medicine or not. They'll be back to normal in a week or so no matter what you do.

I'm Dr. Mona Khanna, About Health.
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