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No More Infant Cough and Cold Medicines – Now What?

Posted Aug 26 2008 11:36pm 1 Comment

I’ve been following the recent story, which blared in headlines from the NY Times this morning, Manufacturers Remove Drugs for Infant Cold.A number of brands, but not all were voluntarily removed from drugstore shelves this week.

You can find the list here.

A voluntary recall by the manufacturers means, of course, the FDA is investigating deaths related to these medicines and the manufacturers are trying to stay one step ahead of the game. Meanwhile we wonder.

No parent can forget those first two years with an infant when, the average baby gets 5 colds or more, runs high fevers and generally freaks out, even an experienced mother. Like many parents I see-sawed back and forth between natural remedies and over the counter remedies, called the pediatrician what seemed like way too often and spent many sleepless nights. So, when I heard about the recalls, my first thought, was, now what are these poor overwhelmed parents to do?

Well, it seems like, despite the hype, it’s not quite as much as issue as it may seem. The items in question are decongestants and anti-histamines – not Tylenol and other fever reducers which DO work and may still be a great last resort under a Doctor’s supervision.

To some extent the fact that fever reducers DO work highlights the problem. The 45 deaths recorded from use of over-the counter infant medicines came from parents giving two or more medicines which contained the same ingredients or measuring the dosage incorrectly…both of which led to overdoses.

This is quite easy to understand how this could happen as many of these medicines combine fever reducers with cough suppressants with decongestants with…well everything. Scanning through the infant medicine aisle and trying to pick out the medicine that treats the precise symptoms your child has can be a dizzying experience.

At 3:00AM when the baby seems impossibly sick and one has tried every natural approach available, calling the Doctor, which one knows will require at least a ½ hour wait while he or she awakens and returns our call, seems less expedient than reaching for an over the counter medication.

But wait. Here’s the catch - cough suppressants and decongestants don’t work well in infants anyway!. Or at least there has been no study showing that they do. So why have we been using them?

I’m afraid that comes down to manufacturers offering them and we as consumers accepting that…if they are available on the drugstore shelf, they must work…silly us!

So what to do? When baby has a cold, natural fever reducers, cold cloths, cool baths are the first line of defense. Baby Tylenol, ibuprofen and other fever reducers have been shown to be effective in reducing fevers and pediatricians do recommend them, when all else fails and after a call to your doctor for dosing instructions. This of course means…call the Doctor for dosing instructions before exhausting all of the natural remedies; something I found worked very well for me.

For all of the other nasty symptoms that make your child feel miserable? All of those infant cold remedies claiming to reduce coughs, stuffy or runny noses and sore throats…well…maybe they really don’t do anything except, in perfect placebo fashion make us feel better.

Some better natural choices include

Use a sponge bath to reduce fever
A humidifier can reduce congestion
Or turn your bathroom into a steam room to fight congestion
For infants one year - mix 2 parts honey to 1 part lemon juice to sooth sore throats
Keep upright to reduce coughing
Use saline nose drops for stuffy noses

An excellent article giving more detail can be found here.

The bigger issue raised by of course is…why were these medications out there if they had not been proved to be effective in infants anyway. Caveat emptor gains more significance every day!

Related posts: Bye, Bye Dimetapp

Comments (1)
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I dont know, for me saline really didnt do the trick and it was torture for my little one... The thing that worked for me was spilling these  capsulas on the sides of the bed... The whole room smells like mint but it really worked!

For more information about infant stuffy nose click:


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