New research has shown that many medicines sold to parents of children under six years old are not as effective as they may hope.
Work carried out on behalf of the Commission for Human Medicine (CHM) found that whilst many cough medicines have over the years been offered in dosages to children based on reduced doses that appear to work for adults, not enough research had done to see exactly what the benefits were to infants.
Do cough medicines work for babies and children?
The study examined the effects of over-the-counter medicines and found that there was no proven benefit to a child under six years taking these medicines and that in very rare cases there may actually be a risk of some form of allergic reaction. On that basis, the benefits do not outweigh the possible risks and therefore they are advising that these medicines should not be administered to children in this age group. (Work is now going to be carried out to see what their effectiveness is on children over six years.)
What medicines are affected by this?
The medicines concerned are over the counter cough and cold remedies (including oral preparations and nasal drops) containing the following ingredients: nasal decongestants (pseudoephedrine, ephedrine, phenylephrine, oxymetazoline and xylometazoline), antihistamines
(diphenhydramine, chlorphenamine bromopheniramine, promethazine,
triprolidine and doxylamine), antitussives (dextromethorphan and
pholcodine), and expectorants (guaifenesin and ipecacuanha).
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) who did the research have stressed that parents who have used products with these ingredients have not put their children at undue risk and that there is no need for these medicines to be recalled from shops, however simply that there is no substantial evidence that they are effective in treating coughs and colds.
What is the best way to treat an infant cold?
The advice is to simply use paracetamol or ibuprofen for babies and infants when they have a temperature and to otherwise observe care and allow them to get over their illness in their own time.
Make sure that you only use medicines to bring a baby's temperature down if the labelling says it is suitable for your baby's age. (If your child is under two or three months, speak to your GP first as you may need to get a prescription, and always tell the pharmacist what age person a specific medicine is for when buying it.)
If your child is over one year old then you can offer honey and lemon in a warm drink.
If your child is still unwell after five days, see you doctor.
Read more on babies and the common cold.
Are any cough medicines worth using?
Single ingredient pain relief medicines are not affected by this announcement.
In addition to the advice above, you can use the following medicines with children under six years (NB babies under three months should only take medicine by prescription):
For pain and to lower temperature:
Calpol Infant Suspension
Calpol Sugar-free Infant Suspension (2+ months)
Calpol Sugar-free Infant Suspension sachets (2+ months)
Calprofen (3+ months)
Calprofen Sachets (3+ months)
Cuprofen Suspension for Children
Disprol Paracetamol Suspension (from 3 months)
Disprol Soluble Paracetamol Tablets (from 3 months)
Medinol Under 6 Paracetamol Oral Suspension
Nurofen for Children Strawberry 3 months to 12 years
Nurofen for Children Orange 3 months to 12 years
Nurofen for Children Strawberry Baby (from 3 months)
Nurofen for Children Orange Baby (from 3 months)
Simple cough mixtures:
If in any doubt, go to NHS Direct or call 0845 4647, if you can't get hold of your GP.
Baby Meltus Cough Linctus
Beechams Veno’s Honey and Lemon (Under 1 year: not to be given)
Benylin Children’s Tickly Coughs (3 months +)
Benylin Tickly Coughs (Non drowsy) (Under 1 year: not to be given)
Care Glycerin Lemon & Honey with Glucose (Under 1 year: not recommended)
Lemsip Cough Dry
Tixylix Baby Syrup (Not recommended under 3 months)