What works best for treating children’s colds?

But parents who want to alleviate a sick child’s misery would do best to avoid over-the-counter cough and cold remedies.

Decongestants should not be given to children younger than 6 because there’s no evidence that they do any good, according to a new review published online Oct. 10 in the BMJ.

These over-the-counter (OTC) medications don’t effectively alleviate symptoms like a stuffy or runny nose, but do carry potentially dangerous side-effects for kids, said senior researcher Dr. An De Sutter.

The new evidence review lends additional weight to a 2008 warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that no cough and cold product should be given to children younger than 2, and they should be used only with caution in older kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends against the use of OTC cough and cold remedies for children younger than 4, said Dr. Jeffrey Gerber, medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Current evidence from clinical trials shows decongestants provide little to no relief for children, the researchers said.

The study authors concluded that decongestants or medicines containing antihistamines should not be given to children under 6, and used with caution in children aged 6 to 12.

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