February 1, 2005

Cough, cold and fever medicine

The kids are sick, coughing and wheezing through the night. Do you know your active ingredients? Check before administering. Unfortunately, there are a lot of "universal" syrups that include all sorts of chemicals that probably aren't need. Here's what may be in your kids' over-the-counter cocktail...

ingredientfunctionhow it works
phenylephrinedecongestantconstricts blood vessels in the nose, lungs and other areas, thereby opening airways
pseudoephedrinedecongestantconstricts blood vessels in the nose, lungs and other areas, thereby opening airways
dextromethorphancough suppressantsuppresses area of the brain which controls coughing - do not use if cough is phlegm producing
acetaminophenfever reducer
ibuprofenfever reducer

Cough and cold medicines are typically composed of decongestants and cough suppressants. The decongestant is used to clear stuffy noses, loosening up snot. This lets the kid breathe, but may leads to dripping mucus, which, going down the throat eventually causes coughing, hence the cough suppressant. Nighttime medications typically include some sort of antihistamine. Indeed, antihistamines are primarily for allergies, however, they have the side effect of drying up mucus. Since at night the child is unable to blow their runny noses, mucus running down the throat causes a irritated throat the next day.

[1] Drugs.com
[2] V. Iannelli, M.D., Before You Buy Children's Cold Medicines, About.com.

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