Don’t give decongestants or antihistamines to children under age 6 with colds, and use them with caution in those between 6 and 12, advise the authors of a research review published in BMJ in late 2018.
They found no evidence that these drugs alleviate nasal symptoms in children, but did find that they can cause adverse effects such as insomnia (decongestants), drowsiness (antihistamines), or gastrointestinal upset. And decongestants have been linked to serious harms in very young children, such as convulsions, rapid heart rate, and even death. What’s more, no other commonly used home treatments, such as heated humidified air, eucalyptus oil, or echinacea, are supported by adequate evidence, the researchers noted.
For parents concerned about a sick child’s comfort, the only recommended treatment is saline nasal irrigation to alleviate congestion. By the way, even in adults with colds, decongestants and antihistamines have only a small effect on nasal symptoms, according to the researchers. They do not shorten the duration of colds.
This article first appeared in the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.
Also see Colds: 14 Expert Answers on Prevention, Relief, and More.