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When giving cough and cold medicines to children, it’s important to know that these medicines treat symptoms, but they do not cure a cough or a cold. 

The makers of children’s over-the-counter cough and cold medicines have changed the recommended age for dosing to avoid serious side effects that may occur.   Labels read, “DO NOT USE IN CHILDREN UNDER 4 YEARS OF AGE” in an effort to prevent harm and misuse of these products.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers:

  • Talk to your health professional before giving a child any cough or cold medicine.
  • Do not use a cough or cold medication if your child takes other prescription or over-the-counter medicines (unless you have checked with the doctor or pharmacist first).
  • Do not give a child cough and cold medicine made for adults.
  • Chose single ingredient products to decrease risk of side effects. 
  • Read the label carefully.  Never give two or more medicines that contain the same ingredient.
  • Follow the directions on the label.  If there are no directions for your child’s age and weight, call your health professional and ask for dosing instructions.
  • Use the measuring device (measuring spoon, dropper, or dosing cup) that comes with the medicine.
    • Never use kitchen teaspoons or tablespoons because they may not be accurate.
    • Never use the measuring device that comes with another medication.
  • Choose medication bottles that have child-resistant safety caps.
  • Store the medicine out of reach of children.


Other Options for Treating Colds: 

Here are a few alternative treatments for infants to help with cough and cold symptoms.

  • Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated which will help thin mucus.
  • A cool mist humidifier helps nasal passages shrink and allow easier breathing.  Do not use warm mist humidifiers.  They can cause nasal passages to swell and make breathing more difficult. 
  • Saline nose drops or spray keep nasal passages moist and helps avoid stuffiness. 
  • Nasal suctioning with a bulb syringe -- with or without saline nose drops -- works very well for infants less than a year old.  Older children often resist the use of a bulb syringe. 
  • In children older than 1 year old, honey may be used to ease cough and sore throat.  Honey can be toxic to infants less than 1 year old. 


 Call NC Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 or chat from this site for further treatment advice.


Last Updated on 12/04/2023