From what I gather, a lot of the concern stems from parents accidently overdosing their children. Many of the children's cough and/or cold meds do not give dose amounts for children under the age of 2, and some (especially the generic versions, I've noticed)don't list dosages for under the age of 6. Unless a parent has a similar medication in the house to compare to, they are kind of left guessing. Also, another concern is that parents may give one formula for a cold, and another for a cough, not realizing that one of the ingredients (for example, decongestants) might be in both medicines, thus overdosing on that one ingredient. Children can (and do) die from extreme overdoses of medicines such as Benedryl, so I suspect the extreme measures are meant to prevent those few rare cases.
I think if a parent is going to use one of these medicines, there are a few key things to keep in mind:
1.) Choose a medicine that is AGE APPROPRIATE for your child.
2.) Choose a brand that clearly states the dosage for your child's age. If you are comparing between two bottles, make sure you are looking at the mg/teaspoon of each ingredient.
3.) Always use the measuring cup that comes with the bottle, or better yet, a medicine dropper, so that you are getting an accurate measurement. NEVER use a teaspoon or other kitchen utensil.
4.) Follow the dosage times; sometimes it seems like the medicine wears off before the 4-6 hours, but it is important to stick to that time regimen.
5.) Don't use these medicines to mask your child's illness so that you can just send them to school or daycare, despite their illness. Even though it is a headache for working parents, it is not fair to your child or their school/daycare. Take time out of your busy schedule so that your child can get the rest they need, and not expose other kids.
6.) Following the recommendations to increase fluids, use a humidifier in certain cases, and use a cream that will help open up their sinuses, really does help. There is some research that the Canada Research Council did, comparing the effectiveness of cough medicine vs. a vapor rub used on the feet, to combat nighttime coughing. In EVERY single case, the vapor rub was more effective than the cough medicine! You can use a Vicks Vapor Rub, or a great herbal formula like Arbonne's Herbal Vapor Rub, put on the bottom of the feet, then put on socks. Not only is this very soothing, but it is effective. I have put this to the test this fall and winter, with both my kids and myself (using the Arbonne product) and was amazed at how effective it was! I was really sick for a week, and even when I resorted to NyQuil for nighttime, I couldn't get relief for my cough until I put that vapor rub on my feet. You can also apply it to the chest and, if your child can tolerate it, a bit under the nose.
I agree that it is difficult as a parent to know how to handle coughs and colds with all of the new information coming out...I have a 13 yr-old, 6 yr-old, and 4 yr-old, and while I have used over-the-counter-cold medicines for all of my children, I do try to use other measures first, but if I do use medicines, it is just use them for bedtime. If a parent really thinks their child could benefit from a medicine but are unsure of what kind, or how much, they should definitely call their pediatriciain's office. Most health providers have an advice nurse available, and they would be able to advise on the appropriate medicine and dosage.The time may come when these products are simply pulled off the shelves, so the more ideas for natural remedies moms can share, the better!