KARVOL, a popular decongestant for small children, can be dangerous if used incorrectly, a doctor from Newfoundland, Canada, has warned. He describes in the Lancet the case of a three- week-old baby with a cold, whose parents applied the contents of a Karvol capsule into the child's nose to help him breathe (it should be dabbed on to a handkerchief, out of reach of the child). He suffered a respiratory arrest - a reaction to the 'natural oils' he had inhaled.

The report estimates that dangerous incidents involving decongestant capsules may run into hundreds. This type of medication should not be given to children under five, it warns.