Children's OTC Cough & Cold Medicines

PediatricCCOral pediatric cough and cold medicines have been available over-the-counter (OTC) for decades and used by millions of parents and other caregivers when treating their children’s cough and cold symptoms.

It is important for parents and other caregivers to know how to safely use and store 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 for safely giving medicines to children.

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