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Should we medicate kids' colds? Are there effective ways to prevent them? What works on cold symptoms?

The DailyDose weblog recently summarized the Food and Drug Administration's recommendations regarding treating kids' colds.  It pointed out that the FDA recommends that children under the age of four not be given any over-the-counter medicines for colds because of potentially life-threatening side effects.  Above age four, it noted that nutritional supplements such as Vitamin C, zinc and echinacea haven't been documented to relieve symptoms or to prevent colds.    Zicam nasal swabs carry a risk of permanent loss of smell, making them inappropriate for children.  Only topical nasal decongest drops will provide some relief of a stuffy nose, and the old-fashioned antihistamines like Contac and Benadryl (the ones that cause drowsiness) will reduce nasal discharge by 25 - 30 percent.

Dr. Ronal Turner, professor of Pediatrics at the University of Virginia also noted that frequent hand-washing may help prevent colds in a school setting, but it has limited impact over-all, and no studies support the effectiveness of disinfecting other surfaces.   While cold viruses can live on hard surfaces for a couple of days, according to Turner, there are no studies documenting that people actually become infected from non-human sources.
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