What Parents Should Do
With more than 95 million packages of pediatric cold and cough over-the-counter medications sold each year—used by 39 percent of US households—this recent recommendation reinforcement will undoubtedly cause parents to wonder what to do about their full medicine cabinets. "It's not a bad idea to just get rid of these medicines," says Dr. Germain. "In a late-night moment of confusion, a parent just might not be thinking straight." Even though the risks are small, he says, it's better just not to have them on hand. "Efficacy is the real problem here, not necessarily safety," he says.
So without any specific cough or cold medications to rely on, what can parents do for their sick children?
For starters, says Dr. Germain, be patient and just let the illness run its course. "Parents have so many external pressures to get their child feeling better, but really, we just need to wait it out sometimes," he says.
And parents should brush up on traditional comfort measures as well. Bulb syringes, humidifiers, saline drops, chicken soup—these folksy remedies can be especially helpful for young children. "Their bodies will heal. Keep kids comfortable and hydrated and they'll be OK," says Dr. Germain. (For fevers and general discomfort, he recommends regular acetaminophen and ibuprofen; parents should carefully follow dosage instructions.)
And while you're considering your child's persistent cold or cough, take a moment to think ahead: "You can prevent even bigger headaches later by getting your family flu shots now," says Dr. Germain. (Read his advice on flu shots for infants.)
More Comfort Measures
Use these tips for keeping your whole family healthier and more comfortable during the sick season:
- 9 Safe Alternatives for Treating Kids' Cold & Flu Symptoms
- Slideshow: 8 Medicine-Free Ways to Comfort Your Sick Child
- Doctor's Orders: Dealing with an Infant's First Cold
- Quiz: How Healthy Is Your Household?
- Quiz: Is It a Cold or the Flu?
- The New Parent's Guide to Monthly Health Worries
- BabyZone Cold & Flu Guide