Thursday, March 01, 2007
Some medicines risky for young children
By Dr. Anthony Policastro

Colds and coughs are usually minor illnesses. The medications used to treat them can be more dangerous than the illness itself. Three children under 6-months of age died from overdose of cough and cold medications in 2005. One of them had taken two different medications with the same drug. There are three groups of drugs that we see in these preparations. The first of those are decongestants. They work very well for runny noses. However, they are the ones with the worst side effects. One of them is called phenylpropanolamine. It is no longer available. It used to be the main ingredient in Dimetapp. A second one is called pseudoephedrine (Sudafed). It was in the medications taken by all three of the infants that died. In low dose it is something that I have long prescribed. I never had many problems with that low dose prescribing. A third one is called phenylephrine (Neosynephrine). It works fairly well as a nose drop but does not work very well when taken orally. The second group of drugs is antihistamines. They work well for allergies. They do not work as well for acute things like colds. However, most of the over the counter cough and cold drugs now contain only antihistamines. The drugs that fall into this category include chlorpheniramine (Chlortrimeton), Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and brompheniramine (found in Dimetapp). The best way to use these is to try them. If they help the runny nose and do not cause side effects, continue them. If they don't work, stop them. If they help but cause side effects, the child is probably better off with the runny nose. The third group of drugs is the cough suppressants. Most of them are by prescription only. There is one over the counter cough suppressant. It is called dextromethorphan. The usual rule is that we never use cough suppressants in children under two years of age. That is related to the reason they are coughing to begin with. They are coughing to clear out infected fluids. If we stop that, it can cause pneumonia. Children under age two are more prone to pneumonia because of their small breathing passageways. This it is too risky to use it under that age. Over age two, while coughs may be annoying, they are not usually dangerous. Again there is still the possibility of causing pneumonia with a cough suppressant. That is especially true when the reason for the cough is wheezing. For that reason, I usually give wheezing medicine for children who wake up in the middle of the night with a cough. I do not suppress their cough. For the older child with a postnasal drip, there might be a reason for a single dose of dextromethorphan at bedtime to help them sleep. It does not need to be used the rest of the day. Sometimes, antihistamines can dry up the drip and a cough suppressant will not be necessary. It is worth trying the antihistamine first. It is interesting how something as simple as a cold can be so complicated to treat. All medications carry risks. The risks in a very young child are usually greater than those in an adult.

Dr. Anthony Policastro is medical director at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital.

Buy a Brick Campaign
Help "pave the way to independence" for people with disabilities by participating in Easter Seals' Buy a Brick Campaign. All bricks will help construct a patio at the Easter Seals Tunnell Center, located at 22317 DuPont Blvd. in Georgetown. This wheelchair-accessible patio, featuring the Easter Seals' lily design, will help people with disabilities enjoy the outdoors. Bricks can be personalized to honor a family member, Easter Seals staff member or participant, or local business, and are tax-deductible. For more information, contact Clour at 800-677-3800 or

Delaware Healthy Living Expo
The Delaware Healthy Living Expo, featuring an array of speakers and workshops on issues of family, physical, spiritual, financial, emotional, and intellectual wellness, will be held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront in Wilmington on March 10 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Headlining the workshop programs will be Lisa Whaley, founder and president of Life Work Synergy, LLC. Whaley, who is also an accomplished author, will present "Finding the Off Switch in an Always On World" to give insight to attendees on finding a harmonious balance between work and life. Four additional speakers will follow addressing healing, self-sabotage, positive attitudes, and exercise. Admission to the Expo is $7. A special luncheon package is also available for $17. You may preregister online at For more information about the expo, visit or call 215-968-4593.

Holistic approach to health
Massage therapists, physical therapists, acupuncturists, as well as doctors and nurses, can learn the holistic art of zero balancing through new workshops being offered at Delaware Technical & Community College. The Owens Campus in Georgetown will offer the 50-hour program - composed of two 25-hour segments taught over four days - beginning in early March. Zero balancing is a gentle, noninvasive, hands-on therapy received clothed while lying face up on a massage table. An advanced studies program for licensed or certified healthcare professionals, the course will teach participants the skills of balancing body energy with body structure and the unique touch that allows them to harmonize that relationship. It will be taught by Olaive Jones, MA, a certified zero balancer and faculty member of the Zero Balancing Health Association. For more information, call Corporate and Community Programs at 854-6966.