How Safe Is Echinacea for Children?

C. Mitchell

Echinacea is generally understood by medical professionals to be safe for children, provided the dosages are small and adjusted to account for a child’s weight. Unless a child has allergies to plants in the sunflower family, or respiratory problems like asthma, echinacea for children rarely poses any risks. That said, the herb should never be used in babies. When the respiratory system is still forming, herbal compounds can lead to serious consequences. In most cases, whether the herbal supplement is effective for young people is much more controversial than whether it is safe.

Echinacea is generally used to treat the symptoms of the flu and common cold.
Echinacea is generally used to treat the symptoms of the flu and common cold.

As far as herbal supplements go, echinacea is one of the safest, even in children. It is generally very mild and is easily absorbed. Overdose is also nearly impossible, as the body is easily able to flush it out. The biggest risks to children are allergic reaction, which only happens in a minority of population. In most cases, the biggest concern when it comes to echinacea for children is not as much safety as it is efficacy.

Adults generally use echinacea to reduce the severity of the flu and common colds, as well as to prevent the onset of sickness in the first place. The herb is widely available in most places as an over-the-counter dietary supplement. Its distribution and manufacture is rarely regulated, however, and appropriate dosages for children are not always included on the supplement’s packaging.

Echinacea for children under the age of 12 is usually considered safest when dosed in small amounts. Most of the time, pharmacists and pediatricians calculate the correct amount of echinacea for children based on the child’s weight. Kids should get only a half or a quarter of a full adult echinacea dosage at a time.

Nearly all dietary supplements, echinacea included, pose risk of individual bad reaction, even if there are no wide-spread health risks associated with ingestion. Parents must usually weigh these potential risks against any expected gains before deciding to provide the supplement to their children. Most medical studies that have evaluated the efficacy of echinacea for children when it comes to upper respiratory health have been inconclusive, and many have gone so far as to assert that the herb has absolutely no effect. For many parents, then, the safety of echinacea is not as important as the larger question of why it is being given to their children in the first place.

The benefits of echinacea vary widely even in adults. Some people respond well to the herb, and believe that it is little short of a cure-all for many ailments. In others, it does essentially nothing. If a child does not respond to echinacea, doctors usually recommend that dosages be suspended. While there may not be any identifiable safety concerns associated with echinacea for children, if there are no benefits either, it is usually best to avoid the chance of something going wrong.

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