Choosing Cough or Cold Medicine for Your Child

By

Cindy Kuzma

This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
Mother giving medicine to child

The cold and flu aisle at your local drugstore overflows with brightly colored options. There’s even a whole section dedicated solely to kids’ medicine.

Follow these guidelines to select a formula to help your child feel better, faster.


Read Labels Carefully

Pay close attention to age information. Also, inspect the ingredients list. Do not give aspirin or products containing aspirin to children younger than age 19 when they have a fever or are fighting a virus (including a cold, the flu, or chickenpox). Children consuming aspirin during these times is linked to the development of a serious liver and brain condition called Reye syndrome. 

Treat Young Children Cautiously

Most experts—including those at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—advise against giving cough or cold medications to children younger than age 4. If your child is between the ages of 4 and 6, consult with your health care provider first. These medications probably won’t help, and they may cause harmful side effects for children in this age range. 

Take Special Care with Infants

Manufacturers no longer sell infant cough and cold products, but there’s still a lot you can do to help the littlest patients feel better. Infant doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help ease a fever and soothe aches and pains in children younger than 12 months. Simple home remedies, such as humidifiers, rest, and a rubber bulb to suction mucus from small noses, may also help.

Stick to the Symptoms

Medicines can help ease a variety of cold and flu symptoms, from runny nose to cough to sore throat and fever. For older kids, select a product that treats only the symptoms your child has. For instance, don’t buy a cough and cold formula if your child only has the sniffles. This way, you avoid unnecessary potential side effects.

Unless your child has a respiratory illness, avoid using medicines that cause drowsiness. Instead, consult with your pediatrician on other ways to ensure a good night’s rest.

Know When to Seek Further Treatment

Over-the-counter medicines don’t cure colds or flu; they merely relieve symptoms. If your child gets worse, doesn’t feel better after a week or two, or comes down with new symptoms, call your health care provider. He or she will check your child for infections and other illnesses that may require further treatment, such as prescription antiviral or antibiotic medications.

Also, stop giving over-the-counter drugs and call the pediatrician if your child develops a rash or starts vomiting soon after taking medicine. These are signs of an allergic reaction.

Key Takeaways

  • When choosing cough and cold medicine for your child, pay close attention to age information.

  • Don’t give any products with aspirin to children or teens, and don’t give kids more than one product that contains the same drug, such as acetaminophen.

  • Most experts advise against giving cough or cold medications to children younger than 4.

  • For older kids, select a product that treats only the symptoms your child has.

Medical Reviewers: Williams, Robert, MD Last Review Date: Oct 3, 2013

© 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. Colds and the Flu. American Academy of Family Physicians, November 2010. (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/colds-and-the-flu.printerview.all.html);
  2. Dos and Don’ts of Giving OTC Cough and Cold Medicines to Your Child. American Academy of Family Physicians, February 2012. (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/drugs-procedures-devices/over-the-counter/dos-donts-giving-o...;
  3. OTC Cough and Cold Medicines and My Child. American Academy of Family Physicians, February 2012. (http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/drugs-procedures-devices/over-the-counter/otc-cough-and-cold...;
  4. An Important FDA Reminder for Parents: Do Not Give Infants Cough and Cold Products Designed for Older Children. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Aug. 3, 2011. (http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/SpecialFeatures/ucm263948.htm);
  5. Children and Colds. American Academy of Pediatrics, July 9, 2013. (http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Children-and-C...;
  6. Coughs and Colds: Medicines or Home Remedies? American Academy of Pediatrics, May 11, 2013. (http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/ear-nose-throat/Pages/Coughs-and-Col...;
  7. Choosing Over-the-Counter Medicines for Your Child. American Academy of Pediatrics, May 11, 2013. (http://www.healthychildren.org/English/safety-prevention/at-home/medication-safety/pages/Choosing-Ov...;
  8. Common Cold: Treatment. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Feb. 11, 2011. (http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/commonCold/Pages/treatment.aspx);


You Might Also Like

Choosing Cough or Cold Medicine for Your Child

Kids respond to medicines differently than adults, so take extra care to find the right formula for your child’s symptoms.

E-mail this page to your friends.

© Copyright 2015 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Patent US Nos. 7,752,060 and 8,719,052. All Rights Reserved. 
Third Party materials included herein protected under copyright law.

Use of this website and any information contained herein is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

Keeping a Medicine Log for Your Child

NEXT ARTICLE:

Take Care with Antihistamines and Kids

Up Next

Take Care with Antihistamines and Kids