Worried that your kids are taking too much medicine? We get the lowdown from a paediatric doctor

Got a little one fighting a bug? HoneyKids spoke to senior paediatric doctor Dr. Leo Hamilton on how to deal with coughs and colds.

Any mum or dad will tell you that the worst part of parenting is seeing your child get sick. When your kids aren’t their usual spritely selves and act extra clingy, it’s tough to not head to the nearest pharmacy or Google the heck out of it . And if we could, we’d hightail it to our trusty paediatrician to get some peace of mind. But what if it’s just a cough or a cold – or both?

Don’t worry if you get into a tizzy every time the ‘lil ones are down with an infection. We spoke to senior Paediatric doctor Dr. Leo Hamilton of IMC Paediatrics about how to deal with coughs and colds, the signs we should look out for and how to decide whether medicine is necessary. Here’s what Dr. Leo had to say:

Coughs and colds are one of the most common problems seen in Paediatrics, something that every child will have again and again. For children in day care or frequently near other children, it’s an average of one viral illness a month. Depending on the virus, a cough can linger for weeks, so it is not unusual to see a cough go on for months with only a few relatively well days in between.

Treatment is seldom necessary

Almost all cough and cold medicines are useless. Antihistamines like Zyrtec or Claritin do no good, but are still widely given as something that will “dry up your nose.” They don’t, and only work for allergies. For almost twenty years most medical societies have declared that routine use of cough and cold medicines is not helpful, and more likely to cause harm. In the United States cough and cold medicines have been removed from non-prescription sale for children under 4 years. From 2004 to 2011 in the USA more than 60,000 children under 12 went to an A&E due to side effects from these medications.

So do you prescribe medicines for coughs and colds at IMC?

Sometimes yes. We often try decongestants and some mucolytics. It won’t make you get better any quicker, but it may help with comfort and sleep, which is always great.

What are the signs to worry about?

Worsening fever, especially if your child seems to get better and the fever comes back. Pain is also sometimes worrisome, as infants and small children tend to get ear infections more often than older children. Any worsening pain, especially with fever, is something worth consulting a doctor for.

What about green and yellow mucus?

It’s very normal to see clear runny noses get more thick and colored a few days into an illness, and if it does not improve in a week or so, especially if sinus pain and fevers are still occurring, please see a doctor. However, green or yellow snot alone is not an indication for antibiotics.

When your kids aren’t their usual spritely selves and act extra clingy, it’s tough to not head to the nearest pharmacy or Google the heck out of it.

Is a fever the only dangerous thing?

Some coughs and colds without fever can be dangerous, especially for children with asthma or toddlers who are vulnerable to croup. Any wheezing or trouble breathing is something a doctor may need to see.

So what to do with coughs and colds?

Most coughs and cold are viral and will go away (sometimes very very slowly) on their own. If you are worried, especially with pain, fevers, or trouble breathing, then a visit to a doctor is always a good idea.

Maybe medicines may help, but most of the time it’s not necessary

Antibiotics are vastly overused, and most cough medicines do no good. If you have any worries, see a doctor, and you can figure out what the right choice is for your child. If you always leave with a half dozen medicines and an antibiotic, it’s probably not right.

When it comes to healthcare, we always want the best for our children. We want to be reassured and supported when our kids are sick and feel that we are making the right decisions. That’s why it’s important to have a paediatrician who understands how you feel, especially when you’re unsure. At IMC, you can be certain your kids are in good hands with its internationally trained paediatric doctors who work hand in hand with paediatric trained nurses. And as parents, that’s definitely a huge weight off our shoulders.

Dr. Leo Hamilton is senior paediatric doctor based at IMC Paediatrics. For appointments call: 6887 4440


This post is sponsored by IMC Paediatrics