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Read This Before You Give Your Child a Nasal Decongestant

When your child is sick, you naturally want to help them. You offer extra snacks and extra snuggles, and when you can, you give them medicine to alleviate their symptoms, to make them more comfortable. But a new study suggest parents may want to avoid giving their children nasal decongestants, as the products may cause more harm than good.

More: 7 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for Cold & Flu Season

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, and published in The BMJ, found that decongestants should not be given to children under 6 and should only be given to children under 12 “with caution,” as their safety is unclear.

“There is no evidence that these treatments alleviate nasal symptoms,” the study authors said in a statement. What’s more, the products can actually “cause adverse effects such as drowsiness or gastrointestinal (stomach) upset.”

In children under 2, nasal decongestants can cause convulsions, a rapid heartbeat and/or death.

Of course, most over-the-counter decongestants are not recommended for children under 6 — though some have dosing instructions for 4 and 5-year-olds. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend using these products in such young children. Instead, they also advise parents only administer nasal decongestants to those who are 6 or older.

More: How to Tell if You Have a Common Cold or a Full-Blown Case of the Flu

So, what can a parent of a sick kiddo do, especially a young sick child? According to the study’s authors, “[I]f parents are concerned about their child’s comfort, saline nasal irrigations or drops can be used,” though they “may not give the desired relief.” However, something is better than nothing, so break out the saline, the snuggles and Netflix. Because nothing cures the common cold like binge-watching Spongebob, Star Wars, My Little Pony or Paw Patrol.

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