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when-to-use-cold-medicine-headerHow to safely use cold medicine for your kids. 

It's easy to reach for cold medicine when you aren't feeling well, and, generally speaking, there isn't any reason why a healthy adult shouldn't. However, there are some cold medications that should only be used for a short time and others that are not appropriate for certain people.

Cold Medicine 101

There has been a lot of press about cold medicine over the past few years. Some doctors have come out saying that cold medicine is not only unhelpful, it can even be harmful. However, the majority of medical professionals still feel that the right medications can be helpful in treating cold symptoms.

In general, problems with cold medicines come in two areas: accidental overdose and previous health conditions. Many people choose combination cold medicines because they are convenient and treat a wide array of symptoms. However, combinations medicines can be dangerous because people often don't realize what drugs the medicines contain and may double dose themselves by taking more than one type of medicine.

Another common problem associated with cold medicines occurs when a person has a previous medical condition and takes a cold medication that aggravates that condition. People with asthma, certain allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease or who are pregnant or take certain prescription medications should be especially careful when taking cold medicines. If you suffer from any pre-existing medical condition, ask your doctor for a list of safe medications.

Cold and Flu Tips

In general, the following tips can help in the proper use of over the counter cold medicines. If you have any doubts about whether or not a medication is right for you, consult your doctor or a pharmacist.

  • Treat only the symptoms that are present. If you have congestion but no cough, don't take a combination runny nose/cough medicine.
  • Carefully follow the dosage instructions on a medication and know what is in it.
  • People with asthma should avoid medications that contain antihistamines because they thicken mucous secretions and can cause difficulty breathing.
  • People with uncontrolled high blood pressure should avoid decongestants or take medications designed specifically for those with high blood pressure.
  • Nasal sprays can actually increase congestion if used for more than three consecutive days. Non-medicated saline sprays are a good alternative.
  • Many doctors feel cough medicines are ineffective and should be avoided. If you have a serious cough, contact your doctor for a medical opinion.

Cold Medicine for Kids

In 2007, the FDA released a statement recommending that cold medicines not be used in children under the age of 6. The age has recently been reduced to 4, but it's best to consult a pediatrician before administering cold medicine to young children. As with adults, many of the problems with children's cold medicine arose because of combination medicines. Parents often didn't realize that a cold medicine contained a fever reducer like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and gave their children a second dose of those medicines. These overdoses resulted in dangerous medical complications and even deaths. While it is tempting to give cold medicine to an uncomfortable child, you should always consult a pediatrician first. Often, a doctor will okay the use of medication but may have specific guidelines or suggestions for your child.

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