When your child is sick you’ll do anything to help them feel better.
And when they’re coughing all night, for weeks on end, it is only natural to search for something that will help them get a good night’s rest.
But unfortunately no such magic potion exists and the only real treatment for a cough that follows a cold is rest and time.
Still, according to the latest Australian Health Poll (released September 2016 by The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne) Australians are spending about $67million a year on cough and cold medicines for children under 15 years of age.
And a third of children aged under six years are being given over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, which the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warns could harm children this young.
Director of the poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes says Australians are constantly bombarded with commercially-motivated messages that are promoted as ‘health advice’ when the reality is there’s no quick fix or magic pill.
“The most common type of cough is the one that follows a cold,” she says.
“Most children don’t need any specific treatment beyond rest and time. The age-old recipe of plenty of exercise and outdoor play, adequate sleep and a healthy diet is still the best medicine for keeping our children well.
“We all struggle to cope with our kids’ coughs and colds over winter, but for young children these medicines are known to be ineffective, and in some cases potentially harmful.”
Dr Rhodes says what was particularly disturbing about the poll was that parents who gave their children these products did so on the advice of a pharmacist (74 per cent) or doctor (64 per cent).
“Now that we have this information, we need to act on it,” she says.
“Parents of young children who are advised to use an over-the-counter cough or cold medicine should challenge the advice; if your child is under six years of age, don’t buy it.”
The poll also found that cough and cold medication wasn’t the only non-prescribed treatment being used in children despite a lack of supporting evidence.
It showed that Australians are spending about $74 million a year on vitamins and supplements for children even though there are no proven health benefits where diet is normal and there is no established nutritional deficiency.
Almost half of Australian children are receiving vitamins and supplements.
“For example, among this group, three out of four parents are giving their children vitamins to boost their immune system even though there is no clear evidence that these products can have that effect.”