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Aspirin alert for children

Manama, January 19, 2008

A warning has gone out against giving aspirin to children with cold or flu, because it can lead to a rare but life-threatening condition, warns a local doctor.

Several studies have linked the use of aspirin to the development of Reye's syndrome in children recovering from cold, influenza or chickenpox, said International Hospital of Bahrain (IHB) physician Dr Farooq Ahmed.

Reye's syndrome is a rare but serious illness that usually occurs in children aged between three and 12. It can affect all organs of the body, but mostly causes swelling of the brain and enlargement of the liver.

'While most children who survive an episode of Reye's syndrome do not suffer any lasting consequences, the illness can lead to permanent brain damage or death,' said Dr Ahmed, who is also IHB Bariatrics and Healthcheck Unit head.

'The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends children and teenagers not be given aspirin or any medications containing aspirin when they have any viral illness, particularly chickenpox or influenza.

'Many doctors recommend these medications for cold in adults only when headache or fever is present.

'Researchers, however, have found that aspirin and acetaminophen can suppress certain immune responses and increase nasal stuffiness in adults.'

Dr Ahmed is raising awareness about the link between aspirin and Reye's disease among patients and dispelling old wives' tales about the common cold.

He said while there is still no cure for the common cold patients may benefit by taking preventative measures and following good treatment advice.

Contrary to popular belief, cold weather does not cause a cold and susceptibility is not related to factors such as exercise, diet, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids, explained Dr Ahmed.

However, psychological stress, allergic disorders affecting the nasal passages or pharynx (throat) and menstrual cycles may have an impact on a person's susceptibility to colds.

While everyone's susceptibility to the cold may vary, the doctor recommends a list of prevention strategies that may help.

'Hand-washing is the simplest and most effective way to keep away from getting rhinovirus cold,' said Dr Ahmed.

'Not touching the nose or eyes is another.

'Individuals with cold should always sneeze or cough into a facial tissue and promptly throw it away. If possible, one should avoid close, prolonged exposure to people who have cold.

'Because rhinoviruses can survive up to three hours outside the nasal passages on inanimate objects and skin, cleaning environmental surfaces with a virus-killing disinfectant might help prevent spread of infection.'

The best treatment for uncomplicated cases include bed rest, drinking plenty of fluids, gargling with warm saline water, petroleum jelly for a raw nose, and paracetamol (acetaminophen) to relieve headache or fever, said the physician.

Decongestants and cough suppressants, may relieve some cold symptoms but will not prevent, cure, or even shorten the duration of illness and should be taken with care.

'Antibiotics do not kill viruses. Prescription drugs should be used only for rare bacterial complications, such as sinusitis or ear infections, that can develop as secondary infections.'

Vitamin C is also commonly believed to prevent cold and reduce the severity or duration of symptoms, but to date there is no conclusive data to support this.

'Inhaling steam also has been proposed as a treatment of cold on the assumption that increasing the temperature inside the nose inhibits rhinovirus replication,' said Dr Ahmed.

'But recent studies found that this approach had no effect on the symptoms or amount of viral shedding in individuals with rhinovirus cold. But steam may temporarily relieve symptoms of congestion.'-TradeArabia News Service


Tags: cold | Children | Aspirin | flu | Alert |

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