Skip to content

Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

Select An Article

Kids' Cold Medicines: Guidelines

Font Size

Should my child use kids' cold medicine?

The current recommendations from the FDA are:

  • Do not use cold and cough medicines in children under age 4 unless advised by your doctor.
  • Never give adult medicines to children. Only use medicines designed for children.
  • Never use a cold or cough drug if your child takes other prescription or over-the-counter medicines, unless you’ve checked with the doctor first.
  • Carefully follow the instructions for dosing on the box.
  • Use the enclosed measuring spoon, dropper, or dosing cup.
  • Take your child to the doctor if symptoms worsen or don’t improve within a few days.

Also, many experts say that parents should go further and stop using any kids’ cold medicine in children under age 6 unless their doctors recommend it.

In 2014, the American Academy of Pediatrics called on the FDA to make such a recommendation. In addition, the AAP asked that OTC cold/cough medicine manufacturers to use weight-based rather than age-based dosing recommendations, saying weight is more accurate for determining the correct dose of a drug. The AAP also asked that dosing devices have a flow-limiting capacity to prevent against overdose.

What can I give my kids for a cold or cough?

Nothing cures a cold, but pediatricians say these strategies may help:

  • Call the child's doctor right away if he is three months of age or younger at the first sign of an illness.
  • Reduce the child's fever using appropriate medication (check with a doctor), such as acetaminophen (Tylenol). Do not use ibuprofen in children under age 6 months or if your child is vomiting or dehydrated. Do not use aspirinwith any child because of the risk of Reye's syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
  • Consider using honey for coughs or sore throat for kids, but only if they are older than age 1.
  • Try saline drops or spray to clear thick mucus out of your child's nose.
  • Give your child plenty of liquids to increase hydration and help thin mucus.
  • Use a humidifier in your child's room to add moisture to the dry air.
  • If your child wheezes, call your doctor. Other treatments may be needed to help open airways.
  • To ease congestion, keep the child's head elevated when resting.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

hot toddy
15 tips to help you feel better.
man sneezing into elbow
Do echinacea and vitamin C really help a cold?
teen girl coughing
Get a good night’s rest with these remedies.
elder berry
Eat these to fight colds, flu, and more.
Natural Cold Flu Remedies Slideshow
cold weather
Allergy And Sinus Symptom Evaluator
Boy holding ear
woman receiving vaccine shot
woman with fever
Waking up from sleep
woman with sore throat