Cough Medicine for Kids

Infectious Diseases

Cough Medicine for Kids


Before you reach for that cough and cold medicine for kids at the nearby pharmacy, please take pause. Though these were once commonplace and thought to be safe, we now have some evidence to suggest otherwise. I can still remember the grape taste of the liquid my parents thought was the best medicine for cold.  Times have changed though, and I wouldn’t even consider using a similar medicine for my children.

For one, evidence shows that children’s cough and cold medicine doesn’t even help improve symptoms of a cold. In addition, there are potential side effects, especially in young children.

Which medications are we worried about?

  1. Cough suppressants – containing dextromethorphan (or ‘DM’)
  2. Decongestants – containing pseudoephedrine and phenylephrine
  3. Cough expectorants – guaifenesin
  4. Antihistamines – such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), chlorpheniramine and brompheniramine

These ingredients are commonly in cough and cold medicine for kids.

What are the concerns?

  1. Many of these medicines have not been studied well in children.
  2. There are potential dangers to your child’s heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure and level of consciousness if too much medication is consumed.
  3. Having the medicines in the house increases the risk of accidental consumption.

My recommendations for cough and cold medication use in kids?

  1. Do not give to any child under the age of 6, unless instructed by a physician
  2. Children on other prescription medication should check with their doctor to ensure there are no dangerous interactions.
  3. Never give your children adult cough and cold medicine.
  4. For children older than 6, if you chose to use these medications please follow the instructions on the box, and use the enclosed measuring dropper or dosing cup.
  5. Make sure your child is seen by a physician if you are worried about their symptoms or they are getting more sick.

To read more about my suggestions for remedying common cold symptoms in children, and to see my favorite home remedy for cough.

The general information provided on the Website is for informational purposes and is not medical advice.

Do NOT use this Website for medical emergencies.

If you have a medical emergency, call a physician or qualified healthcare provider, or CALL 911 immediately. Under no circumstances should you attempt self-treatment based on anything you have seen or read on this Website. Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed and qualified health provider in your jurisdiction concerning any questions you may have regarding any information obtained from this Website and any medical condition you believe may be relevant to you or to someone else. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.

Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

About Dina M. Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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