Oral pediatric cough and cold medicines have been available over-the-counter for decades and used by millions of parents and other caregivers when treating their children’s cough and cold symptoms. These medicines are very safe when used as directed. Unfortunately, in rare cases, misuse or accidental ingestion leading to overdose has led to serious adverse events in young children.
Although adverse events related to cough and cold medicines are rare and most often occur in children under age two, the makers of medicines voluntarily have changed children’s cough and cold medicine labels to help encourage the appropriate use of these medicines.
Children’s cough and cold medications are the same medicines parents have relied upon for years when caring for children, but they now have updated labels that advise parents and caregivers not to use them for children under age 4. Current dosing instructions for children, age 4 and older, have not changed. In addition, oral OTC cough and cold medicines containing antihistamines (which are clearly labeled with that word in the “uses” section of the Drug Facts label) carry a new warning: Do not use to sedate or make a child sleepy.
Safe and Appropriate Use of Children’s Cough and Cold Medicines
Because safety is our top priority, CHPA and the leading makers of these medicines are continuing our efforts to build awareness among parents and other caregivers and healthcare professionals about how to safely use oral OTC cough and cold medicines in children, and, just as important, when not to use them.
Parents and caregivers should use the following tips for safe and effective dosing in children:
- Always read and follow medicine labels exactly and use the measuring device that comes with the medicine.
- Do not give a medicine only intended for adults to a child.
- Only give the medicine that treats your child’s specific symptoms.
- Never give two medicines at the same time that contain the same active ingredient.
- Do not use oral cough and cold medicines for children under age 4.
- Never use an OTC medicine to sedate or make a child sleepy.
- Never give aspirin-containing products to a child for cold or flu symptoms unless told to do so by a doctor.
- If your child develops any side effects or reactions that concern you, stop giving the OTC medicine and contact a doctor immediately.
- Keep all medicines out of your child’s reach and sight.
- Talk to a doctor, pharmacist, or other healthcare provider if you have any questions.
The over-the-counter medicine industry’s consumer education foundation has more tips at OTCsafety.org for safely giving medicines to children.