When cold season and allergy season overlap
parents need to know the active ingredients in the medicines they give their
children for these conditions, the US Food and Drug Administration warns.
Taking more than one medicine at a time could cause serious health problems
if the drugs have the same active ingredient, which is the component that makes
the medicine effective against a particular condition.
For over-the-counter products, active ingredients are listed first on a
medicine's Drug Facts label. For prescription medicines, active ingredients are
listed in a patient package insert or consumer information sheet provided by the
pharmacist, the FDA said.
Many medicines have just one active ingredient. But combination medicines -
such as those for allergy, cough or fever and congestion - may have more than
Antihistamine is an active ingredient found in cold and allergy medicines.
Too much antihistamine can cause sedation or agitation. In rare cases, it can
cause breathing problems.
Dr Hari Cheryl Sachs, an FDA
paediatrician, said, "Many parents may be giving their
children at least one product with an antihistamine in it."
Treat and be cautious
Over-the-counter antihistamines include diphenhydramine (Benadryl),
chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton), clemastine (Tavist), fexofenadine (Allegra),
loratadine (Claritin, Alavert), and cetirizine (Zyrtec). Parents need to be
cautious if they're also giving their child medicines to treat a cough or
"It's important not to inadvertently give your child a double dose," Sachs
Other active ingredients that can be found in both allergy and cold medicines
include: acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), and decongestants
such as pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine.
All can cause serious health problems if children take too much of them.
Parents need to keep track of every medicine and the active ingredients each
contains, Sachs said. She recommended making it a habit to write down the name
of any over-the-counter or prescription medicine given to a child.
"It's really a good idea to carry that list with you when you go to see your
paediatrician or even when you go to the pharmacy," Sachs said.
Parents should also make note of any vitamins or supplements a child is
taking, as these can also have potentially harmful interactions with certain
The Nemours Foundation has more about children
and medication safety.