Advice for treatment of cough, colds in children under 6

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Responding to guidance issued by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), advising that cough and cold treatments should not be used for children under 6 years of age, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) has issued the following advice to parents.

RPSGB’s Director of Policy, David Pruce, says:

“In view of the MHRA’s new guidance, the RPSGB considers it good practice to restrict the use of some over-the-counter (OTC) products for the treatment of cough and cold symptoms in children under 6 years of age.

“For children under 6 who have uncomplicated coughs and colds, the following medicines are suitable for use:

– Paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain and lower temperature;

– Simple non-pharmacological cough mixtures for the treatment of coughs (for example paediatric simple linctus or those containing glycerol or honey and lemon);

– Vapour rubs and inhalant decongestants which can be applied to children’s clothing to provide relief of stuffy or blocked nose for children and infants over 3 months. Saline (Sodium Chloride 0.9%) nose drops can be helpful particularly in infants who are having difficulty feeding.

Further research is required on how effective OTC medicines are for coughs and colds in children over 6 years. Parents with young children experiencing a cough or cold should seek the advice of their community pharmacist about the best treatment to relieve symptoms,” said David Pruce.

“It is important to emphasise that these products have been used safely for many years. However, having reviewed all the available evidence, experts now recommend that the lack of robust evidence of their effectiveness in young children and the small risk of adverse effects means that we no longer recommend their use in children under 6.

“Children between 6 and 12 years old are less likely to suffer from adverse effects of these medicines. Further clinical trials being conducted now will clarify how effective these medicines are in this age group. In the mean time, parents should seek the advice of their pharmacist. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and are well placed in the heart of communities to offer advice to members of the public who may have concerns about safe treatments for children.”

Source: Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, UK

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