Cold medicines: Use Carefully With Kids

cold medicines

Does your toddler have a cold?  If so, read this before rushing to give your child any cold medicines.

The Food and Drug Administration cautions that children younger than two year old should not be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine.  Serious and possibly life-threatening side effects could occur.  During 2004-2005, an estimated 1,519 children younger than 2 years were treated in emergency rooms in the U.S. departments for problems  associated with cough and cold medications, including overdoses.  Manufacturers voluntarily removed over-the-counter infant cough and cold products intended for children under 2 years of age due to these safety concerns.

If your child is older than two, caution is still necessary.

Cold Medicines for Toddlers and Older Children

Cough and cold products for children older than 2 years of age were not affected by that voluntary removal so these products are still sold in pharmacies and elsewhere. Manufactures have voluntarily re-labeled these products: “Do not use in children under 4 years of age.”

The FDA cautions that parents need to be aware that many over-the-counter cough and cold products contain multiple ingredients which can lead to accidental overdosing. Reading the Drug Facts label can help parents learn about what ingredients are in a product. The agency also warns that cough and cold remedies can be harmful if:

  • more than the recommended amount is used
  • they are given too often
  • more than one product containing the same drug is being used.

Very importantly, children should not be given medicines that are packaged and made for adults.

Other Options for Treating Kids Colds

The FDA suggests several alternatives to cold medicines for infants and young children:

  • 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
  • Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to reduce fever, aches and pains. Parents should carefully read and follow the product’s instructions for use on the Drug Facts label
  • Drinking plenty of liquids will help children stay hydrated.



About the Author

Ed Tobias
Ed Tobias brings more than four decades of reporting and news management experience to his work at Rx411. Tobias managed news coverage for Associated Press Radio for over twenty years. This included coverage of the 9/11 attacks, the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the death of Princess Diana, the Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters and national election primaries, conventions and campaigns. He was part of the team that built AP’s on-line video operation. Prior to joining AP, Tobias was News Director at all-news WTOP in Washington, D.C.