Children under the age of two should not be given cough or cold medications without specific instructions from a Bajan physician. The reason for this is two-fold: First, there have been a number of infants and young children harmed by accidental overdoses of these medications when a parent mixed different medications together OR gave too high a dose. Second, there has been very little research done on young children to prove that cough and cold medications are safe and or effective.

There are four major ingredients contained in cold medication and one should be aware of these. These ingredients can be found as a single item or in combination in cough and cold preparations:

  1. Nasal decongestant ? This will clear nasal passages making it easier to breath through the nose. It also has a mild drying effect so it will also help relieve runny nose a bit. Side effects may include excitability, which might interfere with sleep.

2. Anti-histamine ? This helps relieve a very itchy, runny nose. It decreases mucous production in the nose. The most likely side effect is drowsiness, which is fine at night, but could interfere with daytime activities.

3. Cough suppressant ? this helps with a persistent annoying cough. It acts by suppressing the cough reflex in the throat and lungs so that the mucous or irritation there won’t trigger coughing. There are no likely side effects.

4. Expectorant ? this helps when your child has thick chest congestion, which he is unable to cough up. It loosens thick mucous, making it easier to cough up. There are no likely side effects.

Barbados’ Ministry of Health therefore advises physicians and parents to be cautious when prescribing and administering these medications to children younger than two years of age because there are safety risks and limited data.

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