Use of Cough & Cold Medicines in Children
Following concerns about the use of cough and cold medicines in very young children, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) would like to recommend that consumers seek advice from healthcare professionals before using these products in children, especially those under the age of 2 years. This is because serious and potentially life-threatening side effects such as death, seizures, rapid heart rates and decreased levels of consciousness can occur in very young children if cough and cold medicines are wrongly given to them.
What is a Cold?
A cold is a respiratory illness that is usually self-limiting and lasts about a week. Cold symptoms typically include sneezing, coughing, runny or stuffy nose, and sore throat. Most of the time, a cold will go away by itself and may not necessarily require a medicine.
How do Cough and Cold Medicines Work?
Cough and cold medicines only relieve the symptoms of the common cold but do not cure them or shorten the duration of the common cold. If consumers are concerned about making their child feel more comfortable, they should talk with their doctor about what approaches to take. Doctors may recommend alternative approaches like drinking plenty of fluids to help loosen mucus and keep children hydrated, using saline nasal drops and gently suctioning mucus from the nose with a bulb syringe.
If a child's cold symptoms do not improve, get worse, or is accompanied by fever, take him or her to the doctor.A persistent cough may signal a more serious condition such as bronchitis or asthma.
What Should Consumers do if Their Children Require a Cough and Cold Medicine?
For very young children below 2 years of age consumers should always seek advice from a healthcare professional to determine if a medicine is required or if there is a more serious medical condition affecting the child besides a simple cough or cold.
Consumers are also advised to be cautious when using medicines in children between 2 to 12 years of age. Cough and cold medicines can be harmful if:
- more than the recommended dose is given;
- they are given too often; and
- more than one product containing the same active ingredient is being used. Many cough and cold medicines contain multiple ingredients to treat other symptoms such as nasal congestion, cough and fever. Therefore, giving more than one medicine could result in overdose if one is not careful.
When using medicines for children between 2 to 12 years old, consumers should:
- talk to a pharmacist or doctor if there are any questions about using the cough and cold medicines in children or if more than one medicine is required for the child.
- check the active ingredients on the label or box of the product to ensure that there is no duplication of medicines that the child is taking.
- use the measuring spoons or cups that are provided with the product or those made specially for measuring medicines.
Cough and cold medicines should not be used for sedating children or making them sleepy.