Cold & Cough Symptoms Cold & Cough Symptoms

Cold & Cough Symptoms

This page provides general advice about dealing with colds and the flu, including dosage recommendations for some commonly used OTC medicines. Please note that many cough/cold products have been reformulated recently. In part that is because many products contained pseudoephedrine, which is now stocked behind pharmacy counters in accordance with the Combat Methamphetamine Act. Pseudoephedrine is the best-studied decongestant in adults, but NO decongestant has been well studied in children. Often doses have been extrapolated from adult data. We also know that adult studies report common side effects including an increase in blood pressure, increase in heart rate, and restlessness. Other decongestants (including phenylephrine, which has replaced pseudoephedrine in many products), have not been widely studied, and where studied, have shown limited benefit.

Our favorite cold/cough preparations are listed below, but if you have found something helpful for your child in the past, feel free to continue using it at the manufacturer's recommended dosing, or call our office for additional guidance. Remember these medicines will not make the cold go away; they only help to make your child feel better until the dosing wears off. In general, upper respiratory infections/colds last 10-14 days from onset of symptoms until completely resolved. As a parent, you must weigh the potential benefits and risks, and use these medications only when your child is experiencing significant enough symptoms to warrant TEMPORARY relief. Nothing replaces rest, fluids, TLC and time.

Do not give cold/cough medicines to infants less than 6 months of age. Mechanical alternatives such as suctioning the nose and throat with a bulb suction syringe, loosening mucus with saline solution (Ocean nasal spray, Little Noses drops, etc.), and using a cool mist humidifier/vaporizer will help infants breath more easily while congested.

In general, it is best to give medicines only for the specific symptoms that a child is experiencing. Remember these products treat symptoms only. They will not make your child's cold resolve faster, but they may help to make him/her more comfortable in the meantime. Do not use a multi-symptom product with a combination of acetaminophen and cold/cough products, because combo products often result in inadequate doses of acetaminophen. Please refer to the Tylenol/Motrin dosage chart for those doses. To ensure the correct dose, make sure you have a working thermometer at home (with fresh batteries).

During the cold/flu season your child may experience back-to-back colds/illnesses. Choose your medicines wisely. You can help your child through an illness by encouraging plenty of fluids and rest; avoiding airway irritants like cigarette smoke, scented candles, fireplaces and potpourri; and by providing extra TLC. Good hand-washing will help keep your child from picking up viruses which can live on surfaces for an extended period of time. You can help prevent the spread of germs in your own home by cleaning commonly handled surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, and the remote control, with Lysol or another antiseptic cleanser.

See this article for dosage information on cold/cough medications