Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Unfortunately, there's no cure for the common cold. Antibiotics don't work against cold viruses. The best you can do is take steps at home to try to make your baby more comfortable, such as suctioning mucus from his or her nose and keeping the air moist. Again, call the doctor early in the illness if your baby is younger than age 3 months.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications should generally be avoided in infants. Fever-reducing medications may be safely used — carefully following dosing directions — if fever is making your child uncomfortable. Cough and cold medications are not safe for infants and young children.
OTC pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) may help relieve discomfort associated with a fever. Don't give acetaminophen to children under 3 months of age, and be especially careful when giving acetaminophen to older babies and children because the dosing guidelines can be confusing. For instance, the infant-drop formulation is much more concentrated than the syrup commonly used in older children. Call your doctor if you have any questions about the right dosage for your baby.
Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, others) also is OK, but only if your child is age 6 months or older.
Do not give these medications to your baby if he or she is dehydrated or vomiting continuously. And never give aspirin to someone younger than 18 years of age, because it may trigger a rare but potentially fatal condition called Reye's syndrome.
Cough and cold medications
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends against giving over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines to children younger than age 2. Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines don't effectively treat the underlying cause of a child's cold and won't cure a child's cold or make it go away any sooner. These medications also have potential side effects, including rapid heart rate and convulsions.
In June 2008, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association voluntarily modified consumer product labels on OTC cough and cold medicines to state "do not use" in children under 4 years of age, and many companies have stopped manufacturing these products for young children.
FDA experts are studying the safety of cough and cold medicines for children older than age 2. In the meantime, remember that cough and cold medicines won't make a cold go away any sooner — and side effects are still possible. If you give cough or cold medicines to an older child, carefully follow the label directions. Don't give your child two medicines with the same active ingredient, such as an antihistamine, decongestant or pain reliever. Too much of a single ingredient could lead to an accidental overdose.
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- Pappas DE, et al. The common cold in children. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
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- Facts about the common cold. American Lung Association. http://www.lungusa.org/lung-disease/influenza/in-depth-resources/facts-about-the-common-cold.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
- Symptom relief. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/antibiotic-use/symptom-relief.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
- Public health advisory: FDA recommends that over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold products not be used for infants and children under 2 years of age. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/PublicHealthAdvisories/ucm051137.html. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
- Cough suppressant and pharmacologic protussive therapy: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Northbrook, Ill.: The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). http://www.guideline.gov/summary/summary.aspx?doc_id=8675&nbr=4840&ss=6&xl=999. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
- When to call the baby's doctor: Print-and-go guide. National Women's Health Information Center. http://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/mom-to-be-tools/when-call-baby-doctor.pdf. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010
- What to do in a medical emergency: Fever. American College of Emergency Physicians. http://www.emergencycareforyou.org/EmergencyManual/WhatToDoInMedicalEmergency/Default.aspx?id=242&terms=fever. Accessed Aug. 6, 2010.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 8, 2010.