Starve a Cold, Feed a Fever?
Whatever the U.S. Food and Drug Administration decides to do about limiting over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications' availability for use by little kids (they've already recommended they not be given to kids under age 2), a lot of people are spooked by the notion that such products may be ineffective or even dangerous. (For a full story on last week's FDA hearing, see tomorrow's Health section.) But what are the alternatives for treating kids' colds?
When I was a kid, having a bad cold meant big spoonfuls of alcohol-containing cough syrup, tiny orange-flavored baby aspirin tablets, and lots of Vick's VapoRub smeared on my chest, where it stung my skin but helped me breathe through my stuffy nose. I'm not sure what function the big red rubber heating pad (which was hot because my mom filled it with hot water) served, but I'll never forget how clammy it felt against my skin as it cooled. I remember my best friend's having a misty vaporizer in her bedroom when she was sick, but I don't believe my family ever owned one.
Of course we don't give alcohol -- or aspirin, for that matter -- to kids any more. But when my kids were little (more than a decade ago), I gave them OTC cold remedies without a second thought, as today's red flags regarding their use had yet to be raised. Because I relied on those medications, I never developed an arsenal of home remedies of my own.
The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends using saline solution and a cool-mist humidifier to clear stuffy noses and chests, small amounts of honey to relieve a cough, and acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin) to control fever. Experts urge parents NOT to give children medications meant for adults, even in small doses.
What do you do for your kids when they have a cold? Use OTC treatments judiciously? Follow the AAP's guidance? Administer a treatment you invented yourself, or one you learned from your parents or grandparents? Let's hear your ideas. But, please, Checkup readers, don't try any of the treatments your fellow readers suggest without first running them by your kid's physician, okay?
Jennifer LaRue Huget
October 6, 2008; 7:07 AM ET
Categories: Family Health
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