Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies?

Medicines

Over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines can cause serious side effects in young children. The risks of using these medicines outweigh any benefits from reducing symptoms. Therefore, in October 2008, the Food and Drug Administration recommended that OTC cough and cold medicines never be used in children younger than 4 years. 

From ages 4 to 6 years, they should be used only if recommended by your child’s doctor. After age 6 years, the medicines are safe to use, but follow the dosage instructions on the package. Fortunately, you can easily treat cough s and colds in young children without these nonprescription medicines.

Home Remedies

A good home remedy is safe, inexpensive, and as beneficial as OTC medicines. They are also found in nearly every home. 

Here is how you can treat your child’s symptoms with simple but effective home remedies instead of medicines:

1 Runny Nose: Just suction or blow it. And remember, when your child’s nose runs like a faucet, it’s getting rid of viruses. Antihistamines (eg, loratadine, cetirizine, fexofenadine) do not help the average cold. However, they are useful and approved if the runny nose is caused by nasal allergies (hay fever).

2 Blocked Nose: Use nasal washes.

◦ Use saline nose spray or drops to loosen up dried mucus, followed by blowing or suctioning the nose. If these are not available, warm water will work fine.

◦ Instill 2 to 3 drops in each nostril. Do one side at a time. Then suction or blow. Teens can just splash warm water into their nose. Repeat nasal washes until the return is clear.

◦ Do nasal washes whenever your child can’t breathe through the nose. For infants on a bottle or breast, use nose drops before feedings.

◦ Saline nose drops and sprays are available in all pharmacies without a prescription. To make your own, add 2 mL of table salt to 240 mL of warm tap water.

◦ Sticky, Stubborn Mucus: Remove with a wet cotton swab.

◦ Medicines: There is no medicine that can remove dried mucus or pus from the nose.

3 Coughing: Use homemade cough medicines.

◦ For Children 3 Months to 1 Year of Age: Give warm, clear fluids (eg, warm water, apple juice). Dosage is 5 to 15 mL 4 times per day when coughing. Avoid honey because it can cause infantile botulism . If your child is younger than 3 months, see your child’s doctor.

◦ For Children 1 Year and Older: Use HONEY, 2 to 5 mL, as needed. It thins secretions and loosens the cough. (If honey is not available, you can use corn syrup.) Recent research has shown that honey is better than drugstore cough syrups at reducing the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing.

◦ Coughing Spasms: Expose your child to warm mist from a shower.

4 Fluids: Help your child drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated thins the body’s secretions, making it easier to cough and blow the nose.

5 Humidity: If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Moist air keeps nasal mucus from drying up and lubricates the airway. Running a warm shower for a while can also help humidify the air.

Treatment Is Not Always Needed

• If symptoms aren’t bothering your child, they don’t need medicine or home remedies. Many children with a cough or nasal congestion are happy, play normally, and sleep peacefully.

• Only treat symptoms if they cause discomfort, interrupt sleep, or really bother your child (eg, a hacking cough).

• Because fevers are beneficial, only treat them if they slow your child down or cause some discomfort. That doesn’t usually occur until your child’s temperature reaches 102°F (39°C) or higher.

• Acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) or ibuprofen (eg, Advil, Motrin) can be safely used in these instances to treat fever or pain.

Summary:

If treatment is needed for coughs and colds, home remedies may work better than medicines

Influenza

Surgical masks provide a measure of protection against a killer flu for American baseball players in 1918. That year—the final year of World War I—the Spanish flu took 50 million lives worldwide, at least three times as many as during the war.


What is already known about this topic?

CDC collects, compiles, and analyzes data on influenza activity year-round in the United States. The influenza season generally begins in the fall and continues through the winter and spring months; however, the timing and severity of circulating influenza viruses can vary by geographic location and season.

What is added by this report?

During October 2–December 17, 2016, influenza activity remained low in October but has been slowly increasing since November in the United States. Influenza A (H3N2) viruses were the most frequently identified viruses. Almost all viruses characterized thus far this season have been similar to the components of the 2016–17 Northern Hemisphere trivalent and quadrivalent influenza vaccine formulations. All influenza viruses tested to date have been sensitive to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir.

Update: Influenza Activity — United States, October 2–December 17, 2016

Colds-Flu-Strep-RSV

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We are seeing colds and Strep. Parents always ask how can they tell a minor cold from something more serious. You can not easily tell the difference. One child may have a minor cold and a sibling may have a more serious strep infection. Even a viral illness such as RSV and influenza can be life threatening. How to treat the cold symptoms are a common concern with most parents. Review my post on how to treat fever and Cold medications. Keep in mind that most uncomplicated colds will resolve within 10-14 days without any treatment.

Diphenhydramine – Benadryl dose

Usually as we approach Thanksgiving we start to see RSV infections. Around the Christmas holidays is when we usually start to see Influenza. There may be different strains of flu each year. Some years we will see both Influenza A and B. In 2009 we had quite a large outbreak of H1N1. The 2010 and 2011 were unusual in that they were mild and occurred later than usual. However 2012, 2013 , 2014 were very busy flu seasons. This year is just starting to peak and we are seeing both Flu A and Flu B

With most respiratory illness the most vulnerable are the very young and the elderly. Take precautions. Wash hands. Do not share drinks. Avoid crowded places. Do not take small children to gyms. Do not visit if you have cough or cold symptoms, even if you are “on antibiotics”. Be considerate of others.

Summer Colds

Cold and Flu Season – Need an excuse for school

Art by Carl Larsson (1901) - “Kersti’s Sleigh Ride.

Art by Carl Larsson (1901) – “Kersti’s Sleigh Ride.

“I cannot go to school today,” Said little Peggy Ann McKay. “I have the measles and the mumps, A gash, a rash and purple bumps. My mouth is wet, my throat is dry, I’m going blind in my right eye. My tonsils are as big as rocks, I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox And there’s one more–that’s seventeen, And don’t you think my face looks green? My leg is cut–my eyes are blue– It might be instamatic flu. I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke, I’m sure that my left leg is broke– My hip hurts when I move my chin, My belly button’s caving in, My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained, My ‘pendix pains each time it rains. My nose is cold, my toes are numb. I have a sliver in my thumb. My neck is stiff, my voice is weak, I hardly whisper when I speak. My tongue is filling up my mouth, I think my hair is falling out. My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight, My temperature is one-o-eight. My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear, There is a hole inside my ear. I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what? What’s that? What’s that you say? You say today is. . .Saturday? G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

From Shel Silverstein: Poems and Drawings; originally appeared in Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. Copyright © 2003 by HarperCollins Children’s Books. Reprinted by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

This is cold and flu season review my prior posts and twitter feed for information that will help you care for your child the next 4 months.

Colds and Flu

Influenza