Nasal Sprays: Helping Or Harming Your Kids?
Common cold, cough, sneezing or congestion can have you reaching nose drops or nasal sprays to treat your children. Parents often rely on them so that the child sleeps through the night. Coupled with home remedies for cold, they hope to avoid giving the child medication. Reasons are aplenty. Cold medicine can make your child drowsy, and in general, making your kid take their medicine is rarely a pleasant experience, both for the parent and the child.
But, have you ever thought about whether those decongestant nasal sprays are actually helping your children? Or harming them?
How Medical Nasal Sprays Work
Nasal sprays contain chemicals that shrink congested blood vessels and open the clogged passages. As they are applied directly into the nose, they give quick relief. But after a few days, the blood vessels no more respond to the medication and this cycle can continue for months, even years. The rebound phenomenon can lead to chronic sinusitis, headaches, and other serious, long-term problems as well.
Using Medicated Nasal Sprays Often Can Harm Your Child
Doctors are worried about reduced efficacy of nasal drops. A growing number of parents resort to over-the-counter decongestants to ease respiratory problems in their kids. The root cause of the problem could simply be pollution; they child may not even be really suffering from a cold.
Using decongestant nasal drops too frequently to smoothen the air passage of your child can prove detrimental for his or her health. Nasal drops and nasal decongestants force the body to develop tolerance against the ,components of the medicine as well as increases chances of a rebound cold.
“Using a medicine when it is not required or for an incorrectly diagnosed disease can be as harmful as administering the wrong treatment. The effects of nasal drops that are not used under medical guidance are often short-lived. One needs to use them more and more frequently to get the desired results. Children, especially who are exposed to outside environment, are affected by the pollutants and allergens. Often times, these are the causes of their stuffy nose. However, parents often misunderstand it as a symptom of cough and cold, and buy decongestants from the chemist’s shop. In the long-term, it harms the child’s health. In fact, overusing decongestant nasal sprays can cause rhinitis medicamentosa,” says Dr Sumit Gupta, Consultant Paediatrician, Columbia Asia Hospital.
A Safer Alternative To Medicated Nasal Drops
“For a more effective resolution, parents should consider using saline decongestants which are more effective and have lesser chances of ill-effects.” Saline (saltwater) nasal drops help keep dried out nasal passages moist. This helps reduce inflammation in the mucous membranes.
If your child is sneezing because of allergies, and does not have a cold, saline decongestants are the safer option for prolonged use, and reuse. They are non-addictive, and mimic the natural saline levels in your body (proportion of salt and water).
Truth: The Common Cold Is Not That Common
The common cold is usually caused by viruses and is mostly self-limiting as symptoms clear in 7 to 10 days. But, it can impact school, lead to use of health services, and money spent on medications. Understand that children have only around 6-8 colds per year; adults have 2-4.
If your child, or even you, have a stuffy nose every other week or 7 days a month, chances are, the problem is something else. It is better to visit a doctor and get to the root cause than to self-administer nasal drops or nasal decongestants.
When Is It Okay To Use Medicated Nasal Sprays?
Paediatrician Dr Sumit Gupta says wants you to remember the following:
- Nasal decongestant drops should not be given to children under 6 years.
- They should be given with caution in children under 12 years, only if the doctor advises. There is no evidence that they alleviate symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, and their safety is unclear.
- Look for additional symptoms such as itchy and watery eyes. This will indicate the child has allergies, and this is not the common cold.
- If your child gets a cold during certain months, every year, it’s another sign that he/she has seasonal allergies. Do not administer cold medicines in this case.
- If the child definitely has the common cold, avoid using a spray more than once every 12 hours, or longer than 3-5 days. Under the doctor’s supervision, try a different mix of chemical ingredients for congested nose.
- Watch out for nasal drops related withdrawal symptoms in your child. These may include headaches, sleep trouble, restlessness, and anxiety. You will need medical help to help them overcome this.