Especially now that flu season is upon us, nervous parents may be visiting urgent care centers with children who are suffering from a cold out of concern that it could be influenza. Relieved as they may be to learn that it’s “just” a cold, urge Mom and Dad to let their offspring ride out the symptoms instead of giving them decongestants. Children under 6 years of age should not take decongestants at all, and parents should think twice about giving them to children under 12, according to a report just published in BMJ. First off, argue the authors, evidence that they’ll even relieve symptoms like a runny nose is sparse. Further, the safety profile is unclear, they say. Side effects from short-term use can include insomnia, drowsiness, headache, or upset stomach, while long-term use can lead to chronic congestion. It gets worse when given to children who are even younger; decongestants with antihistamines have been associated with convulsions, rapid heart rate, and even death in children younger than 2 years of age. At best, the only treatment they recommend (besides the standard rest and ample fluids) for the child’s comfort is saline irrigation or drops, though they note “this may not give the desired relief.”

Warn Parents: Don’t Let Young Children with a Cold Have Decongestants
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