Well­ness Arti­cles

Cough Syrup Doesn’t Work on Chil­dren

A study pub­lished in the July issue of the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Pediatrics’s offi­cial jour­nal, “Pedi­atrics”, sug­gests that over-​the-​counter cough sup­pres­sants may be no more use­ful for calm­ing a cough in chil­dren than sim­ple sugar syrup. The research, per­formed at Penn­syl­va­nia State Col­lege of Med­i­cine, Her­shey, Penn­syl­va­nia, involved ques­tion­ing the par­ents of 100 chil­dren with upper res­pi­ra­tory infec­tions. These par­ents were ques­tioned to assess the fre­quency, sever­ity, and both­er­some nature of the noc­tur­nal cough.

The par­ents of chil­dren with upper res­pi­ra­tory infec­tions par­tic­i­pat­ing in this study were inter­viewed on 2 con­sec­u­tive days. They were ques­tioned ini­tially on the day of pre­sen­ta­tion when no med­ica­tion had been given the pre­vi­ous evening to access how their child was doing. Then, on the next day, they were ques­tioned again after either med­ica­tion or a placebo, (sugar syrup) was given to the child before bed­time. Sleep qual­ity for both the child and the par­ent were then assessed for both nights to see if there was any dif­fer­ence between the chil­dren who got med­i­cine and the ones who only got the placebo . Dur­ing this study, nei­ther the physi­cian nor the par­ents knew who was tak­ing the cough med­ica­tion or the placebo.

Two active ingre­di­ents in most cough med­i­cines are dex­tromethor­phan, to clear phlegm, and diphen­hy­dramine, an anti­his­t­a­mine to reduce swelling in the res­pi­ra­tory tract. The study sug­gested, that in chil­dren, nei­ther drug made much dif­fer­ence. Dr. Ian Paul, a pro­fes­sor of pedi­atrics at Penn State Children’s Hos­pi­tal and the study’s lead author said, “Cough symp­toms went away within a few days, regard­less of whether the child was tak­ing med­i­cine or a placebo.” He con­tin­ued, “Night­time cough­ing affects the child and the par­ents. Nobody gets any sleep. Even so, par­ents really need to think twice before giv­ing these med­ica­tions that have doubt­ful pos­i­tive effects on their children’s symp­toms and may have a poten­tial for side effects.”

Dr Paul con­cluded that doc­tors should con­sider these find­ings, as well as poten­tial side-​effects, and costs of the drugs before rec­om­mend­ing cough syrups.

Ran­dom Article

In an April 19, 2001 issue of the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Med­i­cine is a report that con­cludes that for chil­dren younger than three

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