The side effects of over the counter medicines for treating baby’s cold

Most colds don’t cause serious complications to children. This is a proven fact. Most children recover in a week or two even if you don’t give them any medications. This is also a proven fact. However, parents are sure to be worried when they see their little ones suffering with runny nose, nasal congestion, cough, fever and pain. Most parents go for over the counter medications to make their kids feel better. Well, you will think again before buying OTC medicines if you come to know about the side effects.

The FDA suggests that children below the age of 2 should not be given cold medication. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend cold medications for kids below the age of 4. Despite the recommendations made by them, there is no shortage of over the counter medicines for cold. Just because many medicines are available, it does not mean that they are effective in treating your kid’s cold. Most medicines are minimally effective or not at all effective. They are not safe also.


What are the side effects of OTC cold medications?

  • Acetylsalicylic acid or Aspirin can cause Reye’s syndrome in kids. Reye’s syndrome refers to a condition that causes swelling of brain and liver.
  • Prolonged use of Acetaminophen  or Paracetamol can be toxic to the liver. Paracetamol is safe when you follow the dosage guidelines .
  • Antihistamines like zyrtec and diphenhydramine like Benadryl can cause sleepiness and drowsiness. It may also cause hallucination and agitation.
  • Codeine is chemically altered into morphine in the liver. Morphine is dangerous because it causes significant suppression in breathing.
  • Decongestants make a child anxious or hyper and cause rapid beating of heart.

What you should know about over the counter medications for kids?

You should know that most of the cold medications for kids have been studied only on adults and not on children. Health care professionals have assumed that the medications behave similarly for both adults and kids. They just reduce the dosage based on the proportion of the body’s weight. For example, 50 percent of the adult dosage is recommended if the child weighs half the body weight of an adult. The efficacy of cough and cold medications was assumed to be similar in children as demonstrated in adult studies. However, that this is incorrect. It is not only incorrect but dangerous as well. Without formal studies it is not safe to prescribe or use a drug. When you are giving a cold or cough medicine to your child, you should know that it would not have been formally studied on kids and hence it is not safe.

Why should you for unsafe and ineffective remedies when you have safer options?

  • Honey is an effective cough suppressant.
  • Saline drops with nasal aspirators can get rid of nasal congestion.
  • Run cool mist humidifiers to loosen nasal secretions.
  • In older children encourage salt water gargling to make throat infections better.
  • Use natural cough and cold balms to soothe your baby’s discomfort.

The best thing is to avoid OTC cold medications but if you are desperate and if you do want to go for OTC drugs, do follow some important precautions.

Precautions to be followed before going for OTC medications

  • Some of the OTC medications do not contain a single ingredient but are a blend of two or more ingredients. It is important to study the ingredients. For example the cold medication and the cough medication may contain acetaminophen. This will result in double dosage. Make sure you double check the ingredients.
  • Follow the dosing instructions.
  • Use the dosing cup for liquid medications. Avoid kitchen spoons.
  • Keep the medications out of sight and reach of little children.
  • Never make the mistake of doing self diagnosis. If you have any doubts about the medication or about the condition of your child, do get them cleared from a health care professional.

Further reading

Home remedies for baby’s cold 

Antibiotics And Common Colds – Do They Work ?

It is quite understandable that when your little one is sick you start feeling anxious. You will surely be eager to get rid of the sickness by giving your child some medicines, most probably, antibiotics. Most parents believe that antibiotics will help in treating all illnesses including common cold. But do antibiotics actually work for curing common colds? Do you want to know the truth?

doctor does injection child vaccination baby

The truth is that there is no point in taking antibiotics for colds.

Why is it so? It is because antibiotics work on bacteria and not on viruses. It is a known fact that common cold is caused by virus. So, it goes without saying that antibiotics don’t work for common cold.

Are you surprised? Did you believe that antibiotics are universal remedies to treat everything? In reality, it is not so. They are not effective on viruses.

Why are antibiotics not effective on viruses?

The structure of virus is different from bacteria. Bacteria have cell walls that are attacked by antibiotics to kill them. Viruses do not have cell walls. Instead they have a protective protein coat that cannot be attacked by antibiotics.

Bacteria and viruses attack your body in different ways. Bacteria attack your body from outside. Virus moves into your cells and live in them.

Bacteria reproduce on their own. On the other hand viruses cannot reproduce on their own. Instead they make copies of themselves to create new viruses.

What is wrong about taking antibiotics for cold?

When you take antibiotics when they are not needed, your body develops resistance to them. When you do need antibiotics to treat a serious infection, they will not be effective. Taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases the risk of side effects as well.

If antibiotics won’t work, then what else will work for cold?

Why don’t you just wait for your body’s immune system to take care of the virus that caused the cold? Just take it easy. Take rest and drink plenty of hot fluids. Go for home remedies. If the cold is persistent and lasts longer than usual, you should consult your doctor.

Why babies get colds – All that you want to know

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Does it seem that your baby gets cold every few weeks? I am sure you are worried.

Well, it is natural that as a parent you are concerned that your child comes down with cold frequently. But you should remember that ‘cold’ is referred to as ‘common cold’ and there is nothing uncommon about it. Do you want to know why babies catch colds?

  • The first main reason is that your little one’s immunity is weak.
  • Kids are born with inborn immunity that they inherit from their mothers. In a few months the immunity that they get from their mother starts to fade. It is at this stage that the kids start getting frequent colds.
  • With poor immunity and too many viruses it is quite normal for your kid to catch cold often.
  • Too many viruses? Yes, too many. There are more than 200 viruses that cause cold. When one of the viruses attacks your child, he or she develops immunity towards that particular virus alone. The kid will be able to develop immunity against all viruses in due course of time.
  • Viruses spread through air and through contact with an infected person. Viruses also survive on surfaces for more than two hours. When your baby touches contaminated surfaces the virus infects him.
  • When your child’s immunity is low, the chances of catching cold are high.The younger they are the more vulnerable they are to colds.
  • How many colds does a child get per year? Babies, toddlers and preschoolers may get about 7 to 8 colds per year. During school going time 5 to 6 colds per year is common. When your child reaches teenage stage, it decreases to 3 to 4 times per year.
  • Have you ever wondered why kids fall sick frequently during monsoon? It is not because of the weather. It is because your child remains more time indoors during monsoon. In a closed room viruses spread easily. This is the reason why preschoolers fall sick more often in monsoon.
  • Does someone smoke in your home? It surely increases your little one’s susceptibility to cold.

Important points to remember

  1. Please remember that cold is not caused by playing outside or by lack of vitamins or by wet hair.
  2. Colds during growing age are unavoidable. It does not mean that your child has some serious underlying disease.
  3. Don’t prevent your child from playing outside. Colds just build your little one’s immune system.
  4. Just keep your house, your child, the toys and yourself clean to avoid the virus.

Here are the best wishes for the speedy recovery of your loved one.

When Baby Gets Sick – Building a Medical Kit for Childhood Illnesses and Mishaps

If you are a new parent you are probably overwhelmed with all that is involved in caring for your new baby. When your baby gets his first cold you will be even more overwhelmed! It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is.

Getting yourself organized and prepared is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a new mom. If you can learn to anticipate what might be coming, you’ll be ready in the middle of the night when your baby wakes up with a stuffed up nose or other ailment. Use this guide to get yourself ready for the inevitable illnesses and accidents of baby, toddler and childhood years.


Start with an empty toolbox (or any medium sized box) that can be locked. (Remember, it won’t be long until your baby is climbing and crawling everywhere and getting into everything.  Use the following checklist to stock your “medicine box” in preparation for the next cold or other illness.  Don’t panic at the length of the list. You can stock up gradually. Pick up one or two things each time you’re out shopping and you’ll be stocked up in no time without making a major dent in your budget.

  • Inside the lid of the box, tape a card with your child’s information (update frequently) in case something happens or your child takes ill when you are not there. Include: Child’s name, weight, pediatrician and phone number, allergies, your information and cell phone number and any other pertinent information.
  • Acetaminophen and ibuprofen should always be in your box.  Both reduce fevers quickly and effectively. It’s nice to have both in your box in the event your child gets a very high fever. Never use ibuprofen for a baby under six months of age.
  • Keep a thermometer in your medicine box. If you will be using the thermometer rectally, keep a small jar of petroleum jelly as well.
  • Rubbing alcohol and cotton balls should always be in your box. Use them to clean the thermometer, tweezers, scissors and nail clippers.
  • Tweezers are never around when you need them. Keep a pair in your box for splinters once your child is crawling and toddling around the house.
  • Scissors for trimming nails and another pair for cutting gauze or bandages are a great addition to any medicine box. If you prefer nail clippers, add a pair of those to the box as well.
  • Nasal aspirators are a lifesaver when your baby or toddler gets a cold. Manual nasal aspirators are easy to use and more baby-friendly than the traditional bulb aspirators.
  • Saline Nasal spray solution can be used to keep stuffy noses moist and clear.
  • A small flashlight is handy to have in your medicine box. Use it to check in baby’s ears, nose and throat for inflammation.
  • Children’s diphenhydramine, commonly known as Benadryl, is a must have for stings and/or allergic reactions. Call your doctor or pharmacy to make sure you are giving the right dose for your child’s weight. If you suspect an allergic reaction – call for help immediately.
  • Bandages, sterile gauze, tape are essentials for any home with a baby, toddler or young child. Cuts and scrapes are inevitable – be ready.
  • A few clean washcloths are a nice thing to have in your medicine box. Most kids will fall or bump their heads. Heads and faces, even when it’s nothing serious, bleed profusely. The washcloths will help you.
  • Distractions are a necessity. For very young babies, keep a brightly colored rattle or squeaky toy in your box. For older babies and toddlers, a squishy ball or other small toy can be helpful as well. Pull these toys out when you need to remove a splinter, use the nasal aspirator or do something else you don’t want your child to focus on.  Keep the distraction toys only for these times and change them occasionally.
  • Electrolyte fluids are important if your child gets a stomach bug and has a bout of vomiting or diarrhea. Remember to refrigerate after opening and to replace the bottle that was in the box.
  • A vaporizer won’t fit in your box but you should have one. Keep it in an easy to reach location.

These are your medicine box basics. If you have these in your house during your baby’s first year, you’ll be ready for just about any illness or injury. As your child gets older you’ll want to change the contents to suit his new abilities as well as his new size and medicine requirements.

Is it a cold or allergy ?


If you notice that your child always seems to have a runny nose (clear discharge), a slight cough and/or watery eyes, allergies, rather than a cold, might be the culprit.

  • Try making your baby’s room an allergen-free zone.
  •  Do not allow pets into the room.
  • Get rid of stuffed animals, curtains and other allergen catching fabric.  If possible, get rid of wall-to-wall carpet.
  • Wash bedding frequently with scent-free detergent.
  • Avoid perfumes and strong-smelling lotions or detergents for yourself as well.

Additionally, keep a detailed diary of your baby’s diet to see if there is any correlation between what he eats and his symptoms. (If you are breastfeeding, keep a food diary for yourself as well.)

If you see an improvement after making these changes, allergies might indeed be the problem. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about ways to ease allergy symptoms.

As your child grows, you will come to recognize his symptoms and how he acts whether he is getting a cold or something more serious. In the meantime, don’t panic. Keep things simple if you suspect a cold. A manual nasal aspirator used before feedings and at bedtime can offer tremendous relief for stuffed up babies. Warm baths in a steamy bathroom are soothing and relieve congestion as well. Placing a small pillow under the head of your baby’s mattress will allow him to sleep with his head safely elevated, allowing for drainage. If you feel the symptoms are getting worse or have other concerns always call your pediatrician.

(Note:  If your baby is under three months of age, contact your doctor even if you suspect it’s just a cold.)

Helping Your Baby Sleep When He Has a Cold

One of the best treatments for a cold for babies and adults is getting plenty of good sleep. Adults struggle with getting enough sleep only because they often refuse to slow down when they have a cold. Babies, on the other hand, are often ready and willing to sleep but have a difficult time staying asleep. Most babies are inclined to breathe through their noses especially during sleep. The congestion resulting from a common cold often prevents your baby from getting a good deep breath and the blockage will surprise and wake him. The following three tips can help you to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The following three tips can help you to get your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep.

1. Use steam.

Steam provides moisture to baby’s irritated nose and possibly scratchy throat. In addition, Warm steam opens up clogged nasal passages and sinuses. Before bedtime, give your baby a warm bath. Keep things quiet and calm while you bathe baby. The warmth, quiet and the ease with which he can breathe will help relax him for bedtime. For added decongesting, bring a large pot or bowl of boiling, steaming water into your baby’s room. Snuggle up and sit in a blanket tent of steam together for 15-20 minutes. For added relief, add a couple of drops of eucalyptus oil to the hot water before you make your tent. In your baby’s room, run a warm or cool mist vaporizer to to keep the air moist while your baby sleeps. If your baby wakes up and has a hard time going back to sleep, repeating the bath ritual often clears him up enough to get back to sleep.

2. Use a nasal aspirator.

In French, the word for vacuum is “aspirator.” Think of a nasal aspirator as a gentle vacuum for your baby’s stuffed nose. You may have tried the bulb/syringe aspirator given to many new parents by the hospital after their baby is born. Many babies will resist this aspirator and many parents are uncomfortable using the bulb aspirator as it is hard to control the amount of suction. Another option is the manual nasal aspirator. The manual nasal aspirator feels less invasive to baby and gives parents a great deal of control over the intensity of suction. You can use a nasal aspirator on its own or you can squirt a bit of nasal saline solution into your baby’s nostrils before you use the aspirator. Use the nasal aspirator before each feeding as well as right before bedtime. Although the most obvious benefit of using a nasal aspirator is the fact that your baby can immediately breathe better, the more important benefit is the fact that he will be able to eat and drink, especially drink, freely. Along with sleep, getting plenty of fluids is one of the best things you can do to cut down on the duration of your baby’s cold.

3. Elevate the head and chest.

Lying flat does not promote open airways and easy breathing when baby has a cold. Fold a few towels or use a small pillow under your baby’s mattress to slightly elevate his head and chest. Be careful – some sheets and/or pajamas can be slippery causing baby to slide down the mattress as he sleeps. Add a textured blanket or towel over the crib bedding to prevent this.

This combination of easy-to-do remedies will go a long way in comforting your child while he is sick.

6 signs you should know about worsening baby’s cold

Colds will clear up without antibiotics or other medications over time. If you suspect your baby’s cold is not improving or if it is getting worse, make an appointment to see your pediatrician.

Be aware of these 6 symptoms that demand quick action:

  • Significant changes in baby’s breathing – wheezing, grunting or very fast shallow breathing

  • A change in skin tone to a gray or bluish tinge

  • High fever

  • Exhaustion – particularly during times when your baby is normally active

  • A worsening cough

  • Drainage from the nose becomes thick and turns yellow, green or gray.

If you see one of these symptoms in your baby call the pediatrician and ask to be seen as quickly as possible. If there will be a significant delay ask about taking your child to the emergency room or an urgent care center.

For the vast majority of babies’ cold is not a threat. Knowing the symptoms that require a doctor’s attention and taking steps to prevent colds are the most important steps you can take.