Is Your Child’s Cough Medicine Safe? What Every Parent Needs to Know

As a parent, it’s natural to want to alleviate your child’s cold symptoms. But did you know that cough medicine can be dangerous for children under the age of four? With children suffering from up to 10 colds a year, many parents and guardians turn to over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to help soothe their little ones. However, a study conducted by the University of Michigan reveals that many parents are unwittingly administering medications to young children that may lead to serious harm.

The problem with cough medicine

Despite package labels clearly indicating that these treatments should not be given to kids under the age of four, a worrying number of parents are going against these recommendations. In fact, the study reveals that almost half of parents are giving their young children cough medicine or multi-symptom cough and cold medicine that can cause hazardous side effects. What’s more, 25 percent of parents were found to administer decongestants to children in this age bracket.

According to the study’s researcher, Matthew M. Davis, “These products don’t reduce the time the infection will last and misuse could lead to serious harm.” Even though many of these medications are prominently labeled as “children’s” medications, crucial information on dosage and age restrictions can often be found in small print on the back of the box, making it difficult for parents and caregivers to make informed decisions.

What are the risks?

The side effects of using cough and cold medicines in young children can range from mild to severe and include allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, drowsiness or sleeplessness, slow and shallow breathing, confusion or hallucinations, convulsions, nausea, and constipation. As Davis warns, “What’s good for adults is not always good for children.”

It’s important to note that while these products may work for adults, there is no guarantee that they will be suitable for your child. Children have different and often more delicate body systems compared to adults, so a medication that works efficiently for you may not necessarily be effective or even safe for your little one.

How can you protect your child?

To ensure the safety of your child, vigilance in reading package directions is crucial. Pay attention to the age recommendations and consult with your pediatrician or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about over-the-counter medications. Remember, there is no substitute for professional advice when it comes to your child’s health.

When it comes to treating colds in young children, sometimes, home remedies and non-drug solutions can be the best option. Keep your child hydrated with plenty of fluids; offer warm liquids like soup and tea to help soothe a sore throat, and use a humidifier to add moisture to the air and help alleviate congestion. For more tips on how to safely treat your child’s cold symptoms, check out this article from the American Academy of Pediatrics.


As a parent, you want nothing more than to ensure your child’s health and happiness. While turning to cough medicine may seem like an easy fix for your child’s cold symptoms, it’s essential to consider the risks and potential side effects involved. Always follow package directions, consult with your pediatrician, and, when in doubt, opt for home remedies that you can trust to be safe and gentle on your child’s system.