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Cold Medicine is a No-No for Kids, Even If it Makes Mom Feel Better

cold medicine for kids

Photo credit: Heather Neal

They always say “you’ll know”. Even if you’ve never heard it before, you’ll know the instant your child has croup. It’s a distinctive, barking cough, that makes your child sound more baby seal than baby human. I didn’t even know what croup really was when I heard the rattle emanating from my sons last weekend. You know, the weekend – when the doctor’s office is closed and your choices are do nothing or go to the emergency room.

After calling the on-call nurse at our pediatrician’s office three times and being told to go with the “do nothing” option, I felt completely helpless. Our friends had croup the week prior; they immediately got steriods and were better quickly. The only bit of advice the nurse gave me was to put him in a bathroom full of steam and sit there until his cough subsided. Dr. Google told me it was worthless; it wouldn’t really work.

I did it anyways. It didn’t work.

After two days of feeling useless I had to do something. I went to the natural health store and scoured the alternative medicine section for something that could help my son’s cough, rattling chest, and raspy voice. I settled on a natural “cold and cough” elixir. I knew he was too young for cough syrup, but I thought this would be a good alternative while I waited for Monday morning to roll around.

As soon as the pediatrician’s office opened, I scheduled an appointment. In the meantime, the nurse told me not to do anything, again. But this time she expanded on that: don’t give him any cold medicine, it makes croup worse. Great. So much for trying to be helpful.

Even though I opted for the “natural” alternative, I was still doing my son a disservice. Unfortunately I, like many parents, was misinformed. Now medication bottles and packages are labeled with the warning not to give to children under two, but not all parents turn over the package and scrutinize the label when they have a sick child to tend to. They just know it says it’s cold medicine for kids and their kid is sick. A 2013 poll by C.S. Mott’s Hospital revealed that 40% of parents with children ages 0-3 give their kids cough and cold medicine. 25% of parents give their children decongestants.

And I was one of them.

Oops.

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