By Sara Altshul
September 07, 2001

My two sons, Jack and Chris, were born years before I became a natural health writer. I was clueless back then—I thought that chicken nuggets were a desirable source of protein and that any beverage containing at least 10% fruit juice was loaded with nutrition.

I also thought it was terrific parenting to stock an enormous assortment of over-the-counter medicines for every possible child health crisis.

Having all those drugs handy was something my pediatrician supported. Id call him (usually in the dead of night) whenever one of the boys had a scary cough or was too stuffy to breathe, and hed always recommend some grape- or cherry-flavored syrup or other.

Too much of a "good" thing
But, as we now know, OTC cold meds for kids—for most purposes—are a waste of money, and, worse, can be dangerous. You can unwittingly overmedicate a child. The ingredients can cause bad reactions in some children. Theres no proof that they reduce symptoms, and they dont cure or even shorten the duration of the common cold.

Currently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) strongly recommends that children younger than 2 should not be given these drugs, and theyre deliberating the medications' safety for older children. Just last year, the Consumer Healthcare Products Association announced a voluntary relabeling of childrens cough and cold drugs to warn parents and caregivers not to give them to children under 4.

So, now we all know better. Or do we?

Actually, we dont, say the results of a new survey conducted by the University School of Medicine, in St. Louis. More than 100 community pediatricians and nearly 1,300 parents were questioned about their use of OTC cold and cough drugs for this survey. Despite the fact that 73% of parents were aware of the FDA advisory, 70% still believed the products relieved symptoms, 68% didnt believe they were dangerous, and 74% had the medications stocked at home.

Try something effective, safe, and new (to Americans, anyway)
Ive known for years about two top-selling European remedies for cough, cold, and sinus symptoms. Ive seen the clinical studies and know theyve been proven safe and effective. But I havent written about them—because until now, they havent been available here.

Last year, Bionorica, a German company that conducts research in partnership with some 450 universities and labs around the world, introduced Sinupret in the United States. Bronchipret was made available several months ago.

Sinupret syrup for kids is made from European elder, sorrel, cowslip, vervain, and gentian. Though these herbs may not be as familiar to you as, say, echinacea, theyre very familiar to doctors throughout Europe. Elder contains compounds that inhibit viruses, cowslip is a traditional bronchitis remedy, sorrel is used to reduce fever, vervain is used for colds and for soothing frazzled nerves, and gentian relieves inflammation and pain. Sinupret is indicated to help clear clogged nasal passages and decongest sinuses.

Bronchipret is a syrup made from thyme, which reduces coughing spasms, kills bacteria and viruses, and thins mucus.

For dosage directions, follow instructions on the labels. Both new meds are available for about $18 on the Bionorica USA website, or may be available at your local pharmacy.