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Parents are warned to not give children decongestants when they have a cold

Parents have been advised not to give their children decongestants, following a new review.

Experts said that the evidence surrounding the effectiveness of the medicines is "limited".

They stressed that the common cold is usually self-limiting and symptoms should clear up in around a week.

Children have around six to eight colds per year and adults have two to four, they said.

In a new article, published in The British Medical Journal, experts from Australia and Belgium made a series of recommendations based on systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials.

Youngsters carry the highest burden for the common cold, but trials to test the effectiveness of treatments are lacking, they said.

The authors of the paper said that children under 12 should not be given decongestants.

They wrote: "A small number of trials report contradictory results for decongestants and antihistamines on nasal symptoms and safety in children.

"Some products that contain decongestant may improve nasal symptoms in children, but their safety, especially in young children, is unclear."

The authors added: "Do not prescribe decongestants to children under 12, as evidence of their effectiveness is limited and associated risks may exist."

Meanwhile, saline nasal irrigations or drops can be used safely, "but they may not give the desired relief".

Vapour rub may relieve congestion but can cause skin rashes, they added.

And other treatments, such as steam, humidified air, echinacea, or probiotics, are either "not effective or have not been studied in children", they added.

The authors also issued advice for adults, saying they could try nasal decongestants for three to seven days if a blocked or runny nose, or sneezing related to a cold is bothersome.

But they cautioned that there may be unintended effects such as drowsiness, insomnia, or headache.

Patients were also warned not to take decongestants for longer than advised as long term use can actually lead to chronic nasal congestion.

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