Cough and cold medicines help reduce the symptoms of the common cold, such as runny nose and cough. They do not cure the infection. These medications can cause serious side effects in young children. To avoid harm follow this advice:
Medsafe, a unit of the Ministry of Health, New Zealand, has assessed the safety and effectiveness of cough and cold medicines in children. They have advised the following:
Decongestant nasal sprays: Medsafe recommends that parents and carers should not use decongestant nasal sprays or drops that contain oxymetazoline and xylometazoline in children aged under 2 years. Examples include Otrivin®, Drixine®, Sudafed®, Vicks®. Cough and cold medicines: Medsafe recommends that parents and carers should not use over-the-counter cough and cold medicines in children aged under 6 years. This is because there is no evidence that cough and cold medicines work in children. There is also a risk of serious side effects, such as abnormal heart rate, allergic reactions and reduced consciousness in children. Also, there is a greater risk of accidental overdose so cold and cough medicines may cause more harm than good in young children.
Note: Paracetamol and ibuprofen are not classed as cough and cold medicines and can still be given to children.
For children aged between 6 and 12 years, cough and cold medicines can be used, as there is less risk of serious side effects in older children. However, they are only to be sold in pharmacies, with advice from your pharmacist.
If you child has a cough or cold, encourage rest and give lots to drink. If your child has a sore throat, see your doctor or nurse in case they need antibiotics or a throat swab.
Help children to stay healthy and fight off colds and other illnesses by:
Use of cough and cold medicines in children — Updated advice Medsafe, NZ, 2013Coughs and colds in children Patient Info, UK