Real Dangers of Treating Small Children With Over-The-Counter Cough and Cold Medicines

Over-the-Counter (OTC) cough medicines have little effect in treating whooping cough. One very important reason is because it is a nervous system disorder and not a mucous problem. It is often described as catarrhal, but it is strictly a nervous affection. The base of the trouble is cerebral and spinal. It starts with a dry, harassing cough, which seems to have no excuse for existence, as there is no irritation of the throat or lungs. This spasmodic cough lasts for two weeks. Then the characteristic whoop begins.

Since the FDA and the CDC are warning us of the dangers of giving our children OTC medicines, that is a good reason for us to listen! In the case of pediatric OTC medicines, the agency decided decades ago that drug makers could market the medicines for children even though they had only been tested in adults. Back then, it was “assumed” that children’s bodies were simply smaller versions of adult ones. That assumption has been proven completely untrue.

A study by the CDC found that more than 1500 children under the age of 2 suffered serious health problems between 2004-2005 after being treated with common cough and cold medicines.The study linked 3 infant deaths in 2005 to cough and cold medicines with high levels of pseudophedrine in the blood. But now doctors worry that cold and cough medicines for children under age 6 may be ineffective and life threatening, as they have been found to lead to hallucinations, seizures and heart problems, according to a 2005 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ultimately, OTC cough and cold medicines are actually suppressing the immune system rather than energizing it. There are many safe, effective ways to ways to treat young children using herbal medicine, homeopathy and healthy foods. It is best to energize the immune system for effective healing.

CLICK HERE to learn more about herbal therapy.

Cold and Cough Medicines Don’t Work

You’re probably wondering why you can’t find over-the-counter cold and cough medications for your children lately. You’re not alone! Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted that over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications should not be used for children under 6 years of age. This is because there is not enough evidence to prove effectiveness of these medications in young children. Moreover, single-ingredient or combination cold and cough medications do not relieve cold and cough symptoms in children under 6 years.

Since efficacy of cold and cough medications was determined from data for adults, no assumptions can be made about safety of the recommended doses for children. Before you treat your child with an over-the-counter cold and cough medication, consult with your health care provider.

But don’t worry! Cough suppressants need only be used when the cough keeps your child up at night or she is constantly coughing during the day. If she is coughing only once in a while, you don’t have to suppress it. Cough is beneficial to the healing process because it clears the respiratory system from mucus. It only needs treatment when it becomes excessive.

While you watch the progression of your child’s cold, there are steps that you can take to improve her odds of improvement:

1. Rest and drink plenty of fluids. Clear fluids such as warm tea, water, and soup will help to thin out your respiratory secretions. Don’t forget chicken soup as it works like an expectorant.

2. To battle nasal congestion, use the old-fashioned saline nasal spray. The salty water in saline nasal sprays is not addictive like some of the decongestant nasal sprays available over-the-counter and it’s very effective in moisturizing nasal mucosa and controlling congestion. Saline nasal sprays are very safe to use even in infants. They can be used even every hour if needed.

You should seek medical advice when you notice these symptoms:

Green nasal discharge for 2-3 days

Coughing up green phlegm

Excessive headache accompanied by fever

Worsening cough

Symptoms come on suddenly and are severe

Symptoms are worse after 5 days from cold’s onset

Chronic illness seems to be exacerbated by the cold

Anytime you think your child is sick enough

If you are breastfeeding, review my article “Breastfeeding and cold medications” at

Legal But Lethal – Cough Medicine Abuse in Teens

An ingredient found in many cough and cold remedies is finding its way into the hands of teens intent on using it to get what is described as a cheap dissociative high.

Dextromethorphan (DXM) – a synthetic ingredient found in more than 125 products including Vicks Nyquil LiquiCaps and Dimetapp DM – is increasingly being misused by teens with ready access to what is a legal drug available without prescription.

“When abused, dextromethorphan takes on qualities of a dissociative drug,” the Canadian Council on Drug Abuse explains in literature to parents and others. “This means that it produces feelings of detachment in a person, as well as distorting a person’s perception of sight and sound.”

A 2008 study found that one in 10 American teenagers has used products with DXM to get high, making it more popular in that age group than cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, and meth. And although DXM products are considered safe when taken as recommended, high doses can cause side effects that include blurred vision, numbness, heart attack, confusion, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and poor coordination. Longer-term effects are not fully known but are believed to include depression, liver problems, psychosis, and learning and memory problems.

What Can Parents Do?

Start by talking to your teen about the dangers of abuse and the fact that over-the-counter medications are as dangerous as street drugs.

Experts like Celebrity Rehab’s Dr. Drew Pinsky say parents need to include cough medicine abuse in drug-abuse conversations with their kids.

“Make sure they understand you do not approve of any sort of substance abuse behavior and that they understand the risks of medicine abuse,” Pinsky is quoted as saying.

Keep DMX Products Under Lock and Key

Treat products with DMX like the potentially harmful substances they are. Clean out your cabinets and store all medicine in a safe, locked location where you can monitor how much is in each container.

Watch for Signs of Abuse

Pinsky says it’s important parents recognize that DMX abuse is a problem that affects teens of all kinds – not just troubled teens.

Parents may think, `not my teen,’ but one in 10 teens report having abused cough medicines to get high and 28 percent know someone who has tried it,” he says.

Signs of abuse to watch for include:

  • Empty cough medicine boxes or bottles in the trash of your teen’s room or backpack
  • Boxes or bottles of medication missing from the medicine cabinet
  • Changes in friends, physical appearance, or sleeping or eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or favorite activities
  • Hearing your teenager use slang terms associated with DXM abuse including Dex, Skittling, Tussing, Robo-Tripping, Triple Cs, Poor Man’s Ecstasy, Red Devils, Rome, and Sky, to name just a few.