Cold medicines and children
Over-the-counter cold medicines are drugs you can buy without a prescription. OTC cold medicines may help relieve symptoms of a cold.
This article is about OTC cold medicines for children. These cold remedies should be used with caution. They are not recommended for children younger than age 4.
OTC children; Acetaminophen - children; Cold and cough - children; Decongestants - children; Expectorants - children; Antitussive - children; Cough suppressant - children
About OTC Cold Medicines
Cold medicines do not cure or shorten a cold. Most colds go away in 1 to 2 weeks. Often, children get better without needing these medicines.
OTC cold medicines can help treat cold symptoms to and make your child feel better. They may:
Younger children are usually given liquid medicines using teaspoons. For infants, the same medicine may be available in a more concentrated form (drops).
Use OTC Cold Medicines With Care
OTC cold medicines may cause serious side-effects, including:
Certain medicines should not be given to children, or only after a certain age.
Taking too many different medicines also may cause harm. Most OTC cold remedies contain more than one active ingredient.
Follow the dosage instructions strictly while giving an OTC medicine to your child.
When giving OTC cold medicines to your child:
You can also try some home care tips to help relieve cold symptoms in infants and younger children.
Store medicines in a cool, dry area. Keep all medicines out of the reach of children.
When to Call the Doctor
Call the provider if your child has:
Talk to your doctor to learn more about colds and how you can help your child.
American Academy of Pediatrics, healthychildren.org website. Coughs and colds: medicines or home remedies? www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/chest-lungs/Pages/Coughs-and-Colds-Medicines-or-Home-Remedies.aspx. Updated June 26, 2018. Accessed November 20, 2018.
Miller EK, Williams JV. The common cold. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 379.
US Food and Drug Administration website. Reducing fever in children: safe use of acetaminophen. www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm263989.htm. Updated January 26, 2018. Accessed November 20, 2018.
Review Date: 10/11/2018
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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