What Can You Give Your Children When They Are Sick?

It is the height of cold and flu season and as a parent you want to make sure your sick child is as comfortable as possible.

But ever since the Food and Drug Administration warned in January that it was too dangerous to give cough and cold medicines to children under the age of 2, many parents have been left wondering what they can give to babies and toddlers.

"Over the last 10 to 15 years, there has been increasing concern over the lack of effectiveness of those medicines," said Ian Paul, associate professor of pediatrics at Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Pa. "I’ve done studies and there is increasing concerns about the safety of these medicines. Combined, there are concerns about why these medicines are available to children."

Drug companies last October quit selling dozens of versions targeted specifically to babies and toddlers. That same month, the FDA's own scientists said that the drugs probably shouldn’t be used in any children under the age of 6. Paul, however, agrees with the American College of Chest Physicians' recommendation of not giving cold medicines to children younger than 15.

So what’s a parent to do?

Paul suggests these remedies:

— Give your child a single-ingredient pain reliever such as Tylenol, Motrin or Advil. Make sure not to get confused with multi-ingredient products such as Tylenol Cold

— Try saline sprays for congested noses

— Keep your child well-hydrated. Make sure he or she is consuming plenty of liquids

— Always use a humidifier

— Try honey. "We published a study that says honey is more effective than dextromethorphan (the cough suppressant found in over-the-counter medicines)," Paul said. "Just don’t give honey to a child younger than the age of 1."

About 7,000 U.S. emergency room visits are made each year due to side effects from cold and cough medicines because of misdosing, according to a study published in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

If your child’s symptoms seem to be worsening, or if he or she is unable to stay hydrated, Paul said it is time to take them to a physician’s office.

"If they can’t urinate or have trouble making tears or are having difficulty catching their breath, those are reasons to go to the doctor."