With cold and flu season at its peak the Oklahoma Poison Center, along with the American Academy of Pediatrics, advises against giving over-the-counter cough and cold medications to children under the age of 4 without a prescriber’s recommendation.

These medications can cause side effects that include difficulty breathing, dizziness, increased heart rate and high blood pressure.  

Acetaminophen is often used to reduce fever and pain associated with the common cold and flu.  However, it can be very toxic to children when they are given too much, are given the medicine too often or are given the medicine with another product that contains acetaminophen.

The Oklahoma Poison Center is asking caregivers to read the drug facts box on medication containers to see how much medicine to give, when to give medication, and what the active ingredient is in the medication.  

The specialists at the Oklahoma Poison Center warn against giving children medication that is meant for adults.  If you are unsure about the right medication for a child or you do not understand the medicine’s instructions, check with your doctor or pharmacist, or call the Oklahoma Poison Center at(800) 222-1222.  

The Oklahoma Poison Center offers the following alternatives to treating the symptoms of the common cold and flu in children:

saline nose spray will help to ease stuffy noses warm fluids (apple juice or water) can help relieve congestion and soothe sore throats flavored ice pops can provide a source of  liquid that soothes throat and hydrates the body hot and cold packs: apply around congested sinuses.  Both can make you feel more comfortable, but avoid a hot pack if the child is running a fever; it will raise the temperature chicken soup: it is warm, easy on the tummy and the steam ventilating into the nasal passages can serve as a natural decongestant petroleum jelly: place a small dab on the upper lip to lessen chafing from a runny nose peach syrup: drain the heavy syrup from canned peaches and drink it to help soothe sore throats honey is often recommended to help soothe sore throats but should never be given to children less than 1 year of age because of the risk of infant botulism, a rare type of food poisoning only affecting little ones

The Oklahoma Poison Center suggests contacting a doctor if your child is experiencing the following:

a fever accompanied by vomiting or rash difficulty breathing: child is breathing fast (more than 40 times a minute) or working hard to breathe a child has a fever of more than 102° (a baby under 6 months of age with a fever of 100º should be seen by a doctor) if a child is sick for more than a week signs that something is wrong: a child who seems lethargic (overly tired); or a child who, after being given medicine, does not engage in any periods of play  

If you have questions about medication or believe a family member is having a reaction to medication, call the Oklahoma Poison Control Center for more information and treatment advice at (800)222-1222.  The Poison Help-line is answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year by trained specialists.

The Oklahoma Poison Control Center serves as a valuable resource for Oklahomans, providing immediate, free and expert treatment advice, including medication information, when an actual or suspected exposure to poisonous, hazardous or toxic substances occurs.

The Oklahoma Poison Control Center, a program of the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy at the OU Health Sciences Center, is one of 57 accredited regional poison control centers in the United States.