WHEN the kids start to cough and sniffle, it's tempting to reach for the medicine.
But NPS MedicineWise is urging parents and health professionals to heed the advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) who this month advised restricting the use of cough and cold medicines to treat young children, amid concerns they have limited efficacy and may even be harmful.
A review conducted by the TGA found that there was little credible research showing the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines, particularly in children, and these medicines should not be given to children younger than six years old.
New advice recommends parents also ask a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner for advice before giving cough and cold medicines to children aged six to 11 years.
NPS MedicineWise Head of Programs Ms Karen Kaye said the new advice reflects the potential for harm from cough and cold medicines in young children outweighs the potential benefits.
"It can be distressing to have a child who has a cough, cold or flu but we have known for some time that there is little evidence for the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines," says Ms Kaye.
"This is because few clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines, particularly in children.
"However, some of the active ingredients in these medicines may cause serious side effects in children, for example seizures or fits.
"To reflect the new advice, labels on these medicines are being changed to indicate that they should not be given to children under six, and that you should ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner before giving the medicine to children aged six to 11."
There are a range of ways parents can manage a child's symptoms when they are unwell with cough or cold.
"Parents often think that a medicine is required when their child has a cough or cold, but there are many simple remedies that can help to relieve their symptoms, including making sure your child gets plenty of rest, ensuring they drink plenty of water and avoiding exposing your child to cigarette smoke," says Ms Kaye.
"You can supervise your child while they breathe in steam from a hot bath or shower in a closed room, a drink made with hot water, honey and lemon is a simple and effective home remedy, and for older children an ice cube or a throat lozenge can soothe a throat.
If your child has a fever (a temperature higher than 38.5°C) and this is making your child uncomfortable or miserable, paracetamol can be given to help ease any discomfort."
"If you have any concerns about your child's health, if their symptoms get worse or if their symptoms don't improve you should certainly speak to a health professional," she says.
Before using any medicine, check with a doctor or pharmacist about the safest one for you or your child.