Health Team

Study: Home cough and cold remedies can work as well as over-the-counter

Posted December 8, 2017 11:28 a.m. EST
Updated December 8, 2017 6:49 p.m. EST

Medicine is meant to help heal, but new research shows some drugs intended to help kids feel better might harm them if they take too much.

According to Consumer Reports, most medication is beneficial when given in the proper amounts, but it can become a hazard if left unattended.

"These are generally safe, when used as directed," said Consumer Reports' drugs editor Lisa Gill. "But many of the problems happen when kids get into these medications on their own."

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics identified more than 3,200 cases of kids younger than 12 who exhibited serious side effects, including hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and even death, due to accidental overdose of cough and cold medicines.

"They can be tempting," Gill said. "Some might be colorful, some might be tasty. The really important thing is that they're kept away from kids."

Kids under 4 years old should never be given cough and cold medicine. Beyond that, Consumer Reports says there's not a lot of evidence they work very well, anyway. The magazine suggests trying some home remedies instead.

"You want to keep kids hydrated with things like warm drinks, soup or decaffeinated tea," Gill said. "Those things may loosen congestion and soothe a sore throat."

For kids 1 year old and older, try adding a bit of honey, which some research has shown can be as effective at relieving a cough as some over-the-counter cough drugs.

Kids who are 5 years old and older can suck on a sugar-free lozenge or candy, which can reduce the urge to cough and soothe an irritated throat. Parents can also mix a half teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water to make a gargling solution, according to Consumer Reports.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises parents of young children to make sure the cap of bottles is locked and put medications up and away, out of reach and sight.