What pharmacy isn’t well versed in the sight of an aggrieved child with a cold clinging to a parent desperate to find a solution.
Due to the current pandemic, the situation has been exacerbated with parents panicking that their children might be infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Pharmacy assistants have a unique opportunity in this situation, to help reassure parents that it is generally accepted, amid studies that keep coming through, that while children can be infected with the virus they are less likely to suffer severe symptoms.
So, for the most part it’s business as usual when it comes to treating colds in children.
According to Dr Rebekah Moles, Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medicine and Health, pharmacies should keep abreast of ever-changing, relevant information on coronavirus pertaining to all age groups.
Aside from that, it should be kept in mind that children often experience double the amount of colds compared to adults, at five to 10 times a year, she says.
The reason for this is because children haven’t yet built up their immune system, so they don’t have the same immunity to colds that adults have.
She cautions though that sometimes a “nasty” cough can remain, which takes a couple of weeks to shake off.
Overall though, Dr Moles points out that coughs and colds are “really not a bad thing” for children as they help them build immunity.
The best that parents can do to help their children avoid coughs and colds, and even the flu, is to make sure they follow good hand hygiene, eat a balanced diet and have the flu vaccination.
“However, when a child has a high fever, is lethargic, has laboured breathing and isn’t eating or drinking, they need to see a doctor.”
Navigating the cough and cold syrup aisle
The allure of an array of bottles of syrup promising cures is very enticing.
It should be noted, however, that many of these have a cough suppressant such as dextromethorphan, or an antihistamine like diphenhydramine. They may also come with side effects such as a hike in blood pressure and consequent higher heart rate or a subduing of the need to breathe.
Dr Moles says she doesn’t recommend most OTC products for coughs and colds for children under six years of age. “Children do not need to take symptom relievers because that is all these medications are doing – masking symptoms.
Rather than OTC medications, Dr Moles advises increased fluid consumption, good nutrition, and some rest.
Another option is to advise consumption of honey, she says, as it well known for its antibacterial and antiviral properties, while its texture makes the throat feel as though it has a protective layer against the ticklish dry feeling that causes a cough.