The cold and flu season is here, and that means parents will be dealing with nagging coughs and head colds that can spread so quickly from child to child.

But before you head to the drug store, there are concerns being raised about children getting into cough and cold medicines and accidentally overdosing. And many doctors say there’s no point in having the medicine on hand anyway.

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics, identified more than 3,200 cases of kids younger than 12 who suffered serious side effects from could and cold medicines, including hallucinations, rapid heartbeat and even death. Many cases were the result of children accidentally ingesting too much.

“They can be tempting. Some might be colourful, some might be tasty. The really important thing is that they’re kept away from kids,” said Lisa Gill, Consumer Reports best buy drugs editor.

Health Canada says children under six should never be given cough and cold medicine. And for those older than six, there's little evidence they work well anyway.

"First and foremost they're not effective. So I don’t want to give my children something where there's no effect," explained Dr. Ran Goldman, emergency room physician at B.C. Children’s Hospital.

Instead of turning to medicine, doctors recommend looking in your cupboards for home remedies.

Top of the list? Honey.

“Giving honey, half a teaspoon before going to sleep and that's only in children over one year of age, may be of benefit,” said Dr. Goldman.

Other remedies include:

  • Keeping hydrated by drinking water with a little bit of apple juice for flavor or warm decaffeinated tea
  • Sucking on a sugar free lozenge or candy if your child is five and older to help soothe a sore throat
  • Gargling with a little water mixed with salt
  • Using a cool mist humidifier to moisten the air in the room

And of course, Grandma may have been right all along, serving up chicken soup.

"Chicken soup is excellent for anything, especially a cough and cold," said Dr. Goldman.

If you do have young children at home, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to put medications up and away out of children's reach and sight. They also say it's smart to put medications away every time you use them, and never leave them out on a kitchen counter or a sick child's bedside.

And always lock the cap on a medicine bottle. If the bottle has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the click or cannot twist it any more.