A recent study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey, US, shows that doctors are now more likely to recommend antihistamines – anti-allergy medicines, often sold over-the-counter – instead of cough and cold treatments to children under 12. This trend is thought to follow the 2008 Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendation to not give under 2s cough and cold medications due to concerns about their safety and benefits for this age group. But is this new trend any better? The findings of the study were published online in the JAMA Pediatrics journal.

Doctors likely to recommend antihistamines instead of cough and cold meds to kids.

The study
The researchers studied surveys conducted across the United States that included 3.1 billion paediatric ambulatory clinic and emergency department visits in the country between 2002 and 2015. In that time, doctors ordered around 95.7 million cough and cold medicines, with 12 per cent of those containing opioids.

But, after the FDA’s advice in 2008, doctors were found to be 56 per cent less likely to recommend non-opioid cough and cold medications for children under two-years-old, and 68 per cent less likely to recommend medicines with opioids for all children under six.

Nonetheless, the researchers also saw a 25 per cent jump in doctor recommendations to treat respiratory infections with antihistamines for children below the age of 12 during this period.

Why does this matter?

Although the study’s researchers commended doctors for sticking to FDA advice, they also said that antihistamines come with their own drawbacks and may also not be that effective in treating children’s symptoms.

In fact, according to Daniel Horton, the study’s lead author and assistant professor of paediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, some antihistamines might make some children feel more sleepy, and others, more hyper. Study co-author, Brian Storm, chancellor at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, agreed and said that antihistamines are “not necessarily an improvement”.

Better alternatives

So, if classic cough and cold meds are out and so are antihistamines, what can we use instead?

Well, the AAP shares several tips to help parents and other care providers looking after children with respiratory conditions through their website, healthychildren.org. In the site’s “Caring for Your Child’s Cold or Flu” page, some of the recommendations include:

  • Using over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol to reduce pain or fever;
  • Giving honey to over 1s for their coughs;
  • Prevention techniques like the flu vaccine;
  • Ensuring that children get enough rest and stay well-hydrated.

The link to the page has been listed below for more information and as always, talk to your doctor to find out the best approach to treating your little one’s symptoms. Hopefully, they’ll be right as rain again in no time!

Written by : Tesneem Ayoub

2. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/Pages/How-to-Manage-Colds-and-Flu.aspx

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