Cough and cold medicines are designed to help reduce the symptoms of the common cold such as runny nose and cough – they do not cure the infection. The ingredients in these medications can cause serious side effects in young children. To avoid harm:
Simple pain relievers such as paracetamol (commonly known as 'Pamol or Panadol') can be used for the treatment of pain or fever.
See your doctor if your child has a sore throat, is not breathing easily, has a cough that has lasted longer than 4 weeks, or you are in any other way concerned they are not getting better.
Cold and cough medicines often contain one or more ingredients that are designed to ease the symptoms of a cold such as runny nose and cough. Common types of ingredients include:
Medsafe, the unit of the Ministry of Health that is responsible for the regulation of medicines in New Zealand has assessed the safety and effectiveness of cough and cold medicines in children. They have advised that the safe use of cold and cough medicines in children depends on the child's age.
Medsafe recommends that parents and carers should no longer use over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines in children aged under 6 years. This is because:
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, these medicines can be used, as there is less risk of side-effects in older children. However, they will only be sold in pharmacies, with clearer advice on the packaging and from the pharmacist.
Help children stay healthy and fight off colds and other illnesses by:
Use of cough and cold medicines in children — Updated advice Medsafe New Zealand, May 2013Coughs and colds in children Patient Info, UK