Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:17 pm

Doctors may recommend antihistamines for kids with colds, but there isn’t much evidence that they actually help…

A recent Rugters study found that doctors are increasingly likely to recommend antihistamines and less likely to recommend cough and cold medicines for children under 12 with respiratory infections.

However, antihistamines, which are widely used to treat various allergic conditions, have little known benefit for children with colds. In addition, some older antihistamines cause sedation and occasionally agitation in children.

“Families often treat their children’s respiratory infections with cough and cold medicines, some of which include opioid ingredients, such as codeine or hydrocodone. However, there is little proof that these medications effectively ease the symptoms in young children,” says study lead author Daniel Horton, assistant professor of paediatrics, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Also, many cough and cold medicines have multiple ingredients, which increases the chance of serious accidental overdose when combined with another product.”

“Sedating antihistamines such as diphenhydramine [Benadryl] may have a small effect on some cold symptoms in adults,” said Horton. “However, there is little evidence that antihistamines actually help children with colds feel better or recover faster. We do know that these medicines can make kids sleepy and some kids quite hyper.”

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The researchers looked at national surveys representing 3,1 billion paediatric ambulatory clinic and emergency department visits in the United States from 2002 to 2015. During that period, physicians ordered approximately 95,7 million cough and cold medications, 12 percent of which contained opioids.

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Cough and cold medicines aren’t recommended for children under six

In 2008 the Food and Drug Administration recommended against cough and cold medicines for children under two. The American Academy of Paediatrics subsequently recommended avoiding cough and cold medicines in children under six.

After the FDA’s 2008 public health advisory, physician recommendations declined by 56 percent for non-opioid cough and cold medicines in children under two and by 68 percent for opioid-containing medicines in children under six. At the same time, researchers saw a 25 percent increase in doctor recommendations for antihistamines to treat respiratory infections in children under 12.

“It is nice to see physicians are heeding the advice to avoid cough and cold medications for children, but switching them to antihistamines is not necessarily an improvement,” says co-author Brian Strom, chancellor, Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences.

What should you do?

The American Academy of Pediatrics has various suggestions for treating children with the cold or flu, including use of over-the-counter medicines for pain or fever, honey to relieve cough in children over one years old, and plenty of rest and hydration.

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Source: JAMA Pediatrics via

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