Experts say children should not be given decongestants because there’s no proof they work and they might be doing more damage than good.

Researchers argue medicines used to relieve blocked noses should never be given to children under six years old, and only given with caution to under-12s, shares Daily Mail.

While decongestants can help adults, there is no proof they work for children and they might instead cause drowsiness or stomach problems, a study found.

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia and the University of Ghent in Belgium, made the claim in the British Medical Journal today.

They reviewed evidence on the suitability of decongestants for children – household brand decongestants include Sudafed, Vicks and Olbas Oil, but specific brands were not named by the scientists.

Professor Mieke van Driel, of the University of Queensland, said: ‘There is no evidence that these treatments alleviate nasal symptoms and they can cause adverse effects such as drowsiness or gastrointestinal upset.’

Children suffer around six to eight colds per year, the researchers said, while adults get two to four.

For adults, using decongestants for three to seven days could have a small effect on nasal symptoms.

But side effects may include insomnia, drowsiness, headaches or stomach problems.

And using them for too long can actually make the blocked nose worse and harder to get rid of.

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

And they said: ‘Do not prescribe decongestants to children under 12, as evidence of their effectiveness is limited and associated risks may exist.’

Vapour rub may relieve congestion but could cause skin rashes, the research added.

In under twos the drugs have been assoc with convulsions, rapid heart rate and even death.

Saline drops are recommended to help with a block nose.

Share your comments below

  • Does this include the kids version of the Vick’s vapour rub


  • We use fess as recommended by my son’s ENT.


  • When my first child was born (early 80’s) my dr recommended Karvol Capsules …you pierce the capsule and squirt the liquid onto a hankie or face washer and hang it near the bub or child or I squired it under the pillow or into the bottom sheet. I have just googled and they still make these and their are positive reviews available.


  • I haven’t seen the oil before, but I regularly used Vicks on my kids. Mostly on their feet or on a hanky they could inhale it from. I myself can’t stand the smell of Vicks up around my head, so I avoided using it on my kids chest and upper back


  • Hmmm, not sure about the vaporub but that’s the only one we use.


  • I love Vicks always have done and always will!!


  • Vicks was always a firm favourite in our home for as long as I can remember, and we also used on our son – together with a vaporizer with a eucalyptus solution. How else do you help a suffering child who can’t breathe due to a blocked nose and cold?


  • My mum used Vicks on both my brother and I from as young as I can remember and we have never had a reaction to it. I have also used it on my boys from quite a young age with no ill effects. I can’t guarantee that it works, however I have always found it a comforting and calming scent. I guess it is like anything, if you have any adverse reaction – stop using it.


  • Mum used vapour rub on me as a kids and I use it it on my kids….when they were little I never put it on skin just on clothes. Whatever helps them sleep when they are not feeling well and we all know how hard it can be with sick little ones.


  • The only thing i ever use on my kids is Vicks Vaporub, love it, never caused any rashes on my kids, thank goodness! I don’t like the idea of using drugs to help clear blocked noses, especially in children.


  • I thought Sudafed had been banned. I know it is definitely not available over the counter any more.
    I know a child who was given it to help with a runny nose. He ended up with Lung Congestion. For some people Sudafed can also cause convulsions.


  • Actually that makes sense, it has petroleum in them


  • I would never use these toxic petroleum based products. Just plain eucalyptus balm is much safer and works just the same, check out the Bosisto range, made in Australia.
    Prevent colds by cutting back on dairy and encourage healthy eating.


  • I knew it was not recommended for children under 2, but children under 12? Think that’s a bit extreme.


  • Many docters / Gp’s advice smearing Euky rub on baby’s feet.
    In the first couple of years of her life, my youngest had so many infections (several times hospitalised, including once at the IC for a week) that she had severe breathing problems and couldn’t drink. The pediatrician prescribes decongestants for adults to her !!


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