Goodbye to cough syrup for children under six?
November 25th, 2011 by Lyne Quesnel, ND
DID YOU KNOW…
Health Canada no longer recommends giving cough and cold syrups to children 6 and under and has published an advisory to this effect on December 18, 2008 following an in depth study of the consequences of these products on the health of children under 6. The organization has determined that the risks outweigh the low efficiency of the products when taking into consideration the risks due to misuse and overdosing. Side effects such as convulsions and irregular heartbeat have also been signalled to the federal health agency. The medications indicated in this advisory are part of the four following categories: antihistamines used to control sneezing and runny nose; cough medicines, expectorants that promote the release of mucus; decongestants. They also consider that children under six are three times more likely to become victims of side effects than those aged six to twelve.
DOES MY CHILD HAVE THE COLD OR THE FLU…
Following is a description of the symptoms to help you determine whether your child has a cold or suffers from the flu:
Cold symptoms: nasal congestion; runny nose, sneezing; sore throat; light to moderate cough; slight fatigue, a cold rarely causes fever. Over 200 viruses may cause a cold! The most common being the rhinovirus. Symptoms are milder than that of the flu.
Length of the illness: from 3 to 5 days
Flu symptoms: extreme and persistent fatigue (1 to 2 weeks), occasionally accompanied by a sore throat, runny nose; headache; sore chest; intense coughing (may become worse); muscular and joint pain, sometimes intense; fever ranging from 38 °C (100 °F) to 40 °C (104 °F) with chills and perspiration; facial congestion; increased thirst. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which mostly appears through the end of December and into February depending on the year.
Length of the illness: from 1 to 2 weeks
N.B. It is important to consult a physician if your child: has a whistling breath; has difficulty breathing and is coughing; drinks little and urines less; has an earache or pus in the ears; has been throwing up for several hours and has diarrhoea. It is strongly recommended that emergency assistance (9-1-1) be called if your child: shows signs of respiratory distress (difficulty breathing, has blue lips, etc.); is lethargic or confused; has stiffness in the neck area.
What exactly are the cold and the flu?
The cold and the flu are very contagious upper respiratory tract infections (nose, mouth, pharynx and larynx).
Children under 4 are particularly vulnerable because their immune system is not quite completely formed. Furthermore, the incidence of cold and flu in this age group is high because children that go to a daycare with more than 3 or 4 other kids may be in continuous contact with friends that have a cold. At age 2, a baby may have up to 10 colds or flues in a year! But the frequency reduces with time: school aged children get about 6 colds per year.
Contagion period: as long as the respiratory tract produces secretions (cough, sneezing, runny nose).
Transmission: direct or indirect contact with the secretions of an infected person (cough and sneezing, hands or contaminated objects, etc.).
Isolation period: a child with a cold may continue to attend daycare or school if he or she feels up to participating in activities. However, if it’s the flu or a particularly bad cold, they may not feel up to it. In that case, it is preferable to keep the child home as long as the fever persists and that he or she is not feeling better.
Forget about antibiotics because the cold and the flu are caused by viruses, they are therefore useless. The disease must simply run its course. Unless complications arise, the following care and advice are generally sufficient and the illness will diminish after a few days.
What to use instead of the prohibited syrup?
You can give your child (from age one to adult) some SYRUPS AND CERTAIN NATURAL SUPPLEMENTS THAT WILL STIMULATE THEIR IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Red elm bark should be included in your medicine cabinet. It is an emollient with high nutritive value. Red elm resorbs infections and is easily assimilated by our body. It is effective in cases of bronchopulmonary irritation, sore throat, colds, cough and gastro-intestinal pain. It is ideal for feeding the sick that have difficulty eating. The medicinal properties are numerous: emollient, pectoral, nutritive, expectorant, cough suppressant, diuretic, lightly astringent, tonic and calms the throat and respiratory tract.
In case of a cold or as prevention, Land Art suggests its Cough Syrup which includes 600 mg of red elm per dose, with a pleasant taste, it is safe for children age one or more and approved by the new Health Canada regulation.
Other care and advice
- Stay warm. Keep the ambient temperature around 20 °C. If the air is dry, use a humidifier, preferably with cold humidity. This will reduce the nuisance of a cough, sore throat and dry nostrils. Avoid vaporizers and hot water humidifiers due to burn risks. Wash the machine regularly to avoid contamination from bacteria or mildew.
- Rest. Chose calm activities. It is not necessary for the child to spend the day in bed but they must rest. It is essential for healing because the body uses all of its energy to combat the virus. If the child exerts too much energy, the natural defences are reduced and the child risks a relapse.
- Keep the feet warm. Warm the child’s feet in water. This will appease a headache and nasal congestion.
- Fresh air. Make sure that the bedroom is well ventilated and that fresh air circulates freely but avoid wind currents and keep the child warm by making sure they are well tucked in.
- Drink. Provide plenty of liquids: water, juice, soup. A child with a cold or the flu may eat less. It is therefore important to make sure they drink more water and fruit juices (no sugar added), particularly if there is a fever to avoid dehydration.
- Provide a healthy diet. If the child is not hungry, provide healthy nutriments in smaller quantities 5 or 6 times a day.
- Clear the nasal passages. If your child does not yet know how to blow their nose, remove the secretions with a nasal suction pump or a ‘nose sucker’. Store bought or homemade saline solution liquefies nasal secretions. Use a dropper to insert some in the child’s nose or a vaporiser. Saline solution also helps a sore throat (if gargled).
Teach a child to blow their nose while having fun, by blowing bubbles in the bath through the nose or by blowing on a cotton ball to make it move across the table.
Homemade saline solution
Dissolve ½ teaspoon (2,5 ml) of salt in 240 ml of boiled water that has been cooled. Respect the proportions. Use this solution to clean the nose of a young child that has an infection accompanied by nasal congestion. Repeat 3 or 4 times a day with the following method: lie the child on their back; insert one dropper (1 ml) of saline solution into each nostril; clean the interior of the nostrils with a cotton swab; add another 1 ml of saline solution in each nostril; have the child blow their nose or use a nose sucker to remove the liquid remaining in the nostrils. This solution may also be used by an older child to gargle.
Is prevention really possible?
It is impossible to avoid all contact with viruses causing infection; they are omnipresent from October to April. We can however, reduce the risk of infection in our children by following these hygiene rules and thereby reducing the propagation of the virus:
- Take multivitamins. In case of insufficient vitamin and mineral intake through nutrition, take adequate vitamin supplements to avoid the deficiencies that may reduce the efficiency of your child’s immune system. Land Art offers Multivitamins adapted to the young as well as adults. These should occupy a place of choice in your daily routine because they will prevent vitamin deficiency and avoid leaving their immune system vulnerable to viruses. Children may take them as early as age one.
- Increase the immune system’s potential. Children are more susceptible to the cold and the flu if their immune system is diminished. is therefore important to get some rest and to reduce stress levels during high risk times, particularly in winter.
- Wash hands. They must wash their hands with soap after being in contact with a person infected or having touched an object manipulated by the person that is sick. We must make children wash their hands often and teach them to do it on their own as soon as possible, especially after they have coughed or sneezed, or after they blow their nose.
- Use tissue paper. Teach your child to use Kleenex or a hankie.
- Avoid gatherings. Since the virus is highly contagious, avoid the cinemas, theatres, shopping malls and other crowded areas during an epidemic. Stay away from people who sneeze or cough, even if it means waiting for the next elevator or giving up your seat on the bus.
- Do not stay out in the cold. Prolonged exposure to cold humid temperatures reduces our resistance and increases the risks of infection. British scientists have shown that body temperature must go under 37°C, normal body temperature, to activate the cold virus. This is why is a child sits in an air current, their temperature may decrease just enough to activate the cold or flu virus that was just waiting around in the sinuses.
- Beware of hand shaking or kissing. They are the best possible way to catch a cold. The simple fact of sharing sleeping quarters with someone that is sick presents considerable risks, take this into consideration.
- Cough or sneeze into your elbow. Teach your child to cough or sneeze into their elbow instead of into their hand if they do not have a tissue on hand.
- Disinfect transmission surfaces. Clean toys, faucets and doorknobs, ideally with a product including alcohol.
- Eat healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals including extra fruits and vegetables
- Use PROTECT!