What medications can my child take when sick?

Depending on your child's age, there are different medications that are available over-the-counter (OTC) for cold symptoms. Currently, the FDA recommends avoiding cough and cold medications for children under age 2, while the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends avoiding these medications in children less than age 6.

Studies have shown that not only are these medications not effective in your children, but that they may increase the risk of other problems including pneumonia and seizures. Also, the ingredients of these medications periodically change even though the name of the medication remains the same. If you do give these medications to your children, make sure to check the labels so that you are not giving multiple doses of the same drug. You should also avoid the use of aspirin in children.

Other Options

There are other options besides cough and cold medications that can be used when your child is sick.

  • Nasal suctioning with a bulb suction
  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) - in children over 2 months of age
  • Ibuprofen - in children over 6 months of age
  • Menthol chest rub (Mentholatum or Vicks VapoRub)
  • Humidifier (must be emptied and cleaned regularly)
  • Maintaining adequate hydration

Important Information

The FDA recently made recommendations to remove Acetaminophen infant drops (80mg per 0.8mL) from the market. The 160mg per 5mL concentration will still be available. Please check your bottle to ensure proper dosing. Suppositories are also available that can be helpful if your child is vomiting frequently.

FDA Public Health Advisory

AAP Policy regarding cough and cold medications