Parents can be excused these days for feeling overwhelmed when trying to decide on the best cough medicine for kids. To complicate matters, the role of a cough mixture in combating colds and flu is often misunderstood, and recent legislation banning the sale of cough medications for children under four years has left parents anxious about the dangers of the most commonly used syrups and lozenges. Depending on where you live, some cough mixtures have also been withdrawn for under six, or under twelve year olds. However, it is a fairly simple matter to examine how a good cough mixture works, what makes a safe formulation, and therefore which are the top three brands available on the market today.
A cough itself is triggered when the sensitive nerves lining the inside of the throat become irritated by the presence of something that should not be there. In the case of a common cold (known medically as an upper respiratory tract infection), this is usually either an inflammation of the throat producing a dry tickling cough, or the presence of phlegm or runny mucus from the nasal passage and lungs resulting in a phlegmy, “productive” cough. Of course other irritants such as dusty air or a piece of food lodging in the throat will trigger coughing, but cough medicines are usually only administered for children when a cold or flu is suspected.
The important thing for parents to realize is that coughing is a symptom of an underlying condition, and it is not an illness in itself. Dosing children with cough syrup will not cure their cold or make them get well more quickly. In some cases the coughing reflex should not be inhibited as it can be beneficial to let the child cough up phlegm and clear congestion from their lungs. Where the coughing is dry, producing soreness, spreading airborne germs to others and preventing the child from getting a good night’s sleep, however, finding and using the best cough medicine for children available to you will provide some relief.
Understanding how the four main types of active ingredient in cough mixtures function provides the basis for rating the effectiveness and safety of each brand. One of these or a combination of up to all four will be found in virtually all over-the-counter cough mixtures formulated for children. The first active ingredient will be an expectorant, such as ammonium citrate. Expectorants help break up phlegm so that the cough will more easily expel it from the body, clearing the lungs and throat of congestion. The second common type of ingredient will be an antihistamine such as promethazine, which can dry up nasal secretions as well as reduce the coughing reflex. Thirdly, a cough suppressant ingredient either specifically targets calming the throat lining nerves by physically coating the inflamed respiratory tract, or by blocking the urge to cough in the relevant brain center.
Suppressants may be listed on the label as codeine, dextromethorphan or other ingredients. Cough drops and lozenges usually act as cough suppressants as the sucking action and slow dissolving action of the lozenge supplies a time-measured, soothing coating to the throat. The fourth ingredient is usually some form of nasal decongestant, which will be important if a blocked nose is making it difficult for your child to breathe at night.
With safety and effectiveness in mind, the following three products are rated as among the best cough medicine for kids aged twelve years or under. With the exception of the first, please be aware that, depending on your location, these products may now have to be prescribed by your doctor.
Always follow the directions on the product and consult a physician before trying any new medicinal products.
This cough syrup is unique and outranks the other two excellent products on the considerations of safety and effectiveness. Sinupret’s safety is derived from the mildness of its natural herbal base, since centuries of European botanical research have revealed that herbs such as Gentian, European Elder, Vervain and Common Sorrel not only correct cough symptoms, but support and strengthen nasal and sinus health. Over 75 years of formal scientific research by respected German University medical clinics have documented the effectiveness of this medication for children, which explains why it is the most popular product of its type on the European market today. In the USA, Sinupret is priced at around $19.95 for 100ml, which equals 50 doses for a child of 2 to 5 years old, or about 40 cents per dose.
Rated second, this medication is a dedicated cough suppressant, effective for up to 8 hours, making it ideal for a school-aged child. The long-acting effect also somewhat reduces the risk of overdosing, and means a better value bottle. It is available in 118ml packaging, providing 23 doses for a 4 to 6 year old child, and costs around $7.00, or 30 cents per dose. This mixture, like the one following, has a history of being consistently recommended by trusted pediatricians such as Dr Sears, and authority medical websites. It brings effective relief for the most common of cold symptoms, is widely available, and has not been noted for any negative side effects.
A trusted household name for generations, Vick’s has a wide range of products designed for cough and cold relief. Now advertised as being for children 6 years or older, there are two variants of the 44 Formula, “dry cough” and “chesty cough”, the latter including an expectorant as well as the cough suppressant. The generous 177ml bottle also costs about $7.00 and provides about 24 doses for a six year old, or 30 cents per dose. Vick’s has formulated the legal maximum of cough suppressant for the allowed age range, making the syrup as effective as possible.
These ratings are based on the choices of those who most frequently advise parents with regard to their children’s health; pediatricians. While possible side effects are very minimal with these cough mixtures, their extremely popular use, especially with children, makes the risk of overdosing on these kid-friendly flavored syrups a concern. By using commonsense, and choosing one of the products mentioned above, you will not only have selected the best cough medicine for children, but will enjoy the relief of a good night’s sleep for your child – and for you.
Herbal cough medicines can also be effective. You can buy them ready made or as this video shows, you can sometimes make them at home. As with the over the counter drugs which are recommended above, you must be aware that there can be side effects and allergies associated with herbal medicines as well. If you are ever in doubt, you should consult your child’s pediatrician.