Medication is probably unnecessary for a young child sniffling from a common cold, a new study suggests.
Dr. Nancy Hutton, a pediatrician at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and her colleagues studied 96 children ranging in age from 6 months to 5 years old.
The children were randomly selected when their parents brought them to a walk-in clinic because of cold symptoms. Only children with uncomplicated colds were selected.
The children were randomly divided into one of three groups receiving either an antihistamine-decongestant, a dummy pill or no medication. After two days, the researchers asked parents again about the symptoms. They found no difference in parental reports of whether the child was better among children receiving medication, the placebo or no treatment. In fact, more than half the children were considered better whether they had received medicine, the dummy pill or nothing.
The study was reported earlier this year in the Journal of Pediatrics. While several previous studies
have cast doubt on the effectiveness of cold remedies, doctors routinely prescribe them, either because they think they will help or because they are placating parents with medication, the scientists said.
"Why waste money and risk an adverse reaction by giving young children medication when the cold really just has to take its course?" Dr. Hutton said. She said that if a youngster started to feel worse or developed complications, such as a high fever, earache or sore throat, then medication might be warranted.
"If a child just has a runny nose and is feeling a little cranky," Dr. Hutton said, "the best thing to give him is a box of Kleenex."