Will Cold and Flu Products Help (or Harm) Your Child?

Will Cold and Flu Products Help (or Harm) Your Child?

Cleveland Clinic Children's

Oh no! Your kid’s got the sniffles and sneezes are sure to follow.

Cleveland Clinic Pharmacist Alex Luli, PharmD, explains which over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can help — and which can hurt — your child

0-4 Years Old: Avoid cough & cold products. They may have harmful side effects. Some OTC products contain opioids. If your doctor OKs acetaminophen or ibuprofen, follow prescribed dosing. Rely mainly on rest, fluids and TLC.

4-6 Years Old: Use cough & cold products only under your doctor’s supervision. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are OK, but follow dosing directions. Rest, fluids and TLC will ease symptoms.

6-12 Years Old: Treat symptoms individually with acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Cough & cold products may ease some symptoms, but data proving their value is lacking. OTC products are safe at this age, but adverse effects are possible. So follow dosing directions closely.

13+ Years Old: OTC medicine can be used safely when needed. Follow the recommended dosing on the label. Treat symptoms individually. Avoid combination cough & cold products. 

Take-home tips:

  • Moist air matters. Humidifiers and nasal saline sprays are helpful (and safe) for all ages.
  • Match dose to strength. Medicines come in different concentrations. Use the right dose for your product’s strength.
  • Spoons aren’t reliable. Use the product’s measuring device or buy one at your pharmacy.
  • After age 1, honey helps. Giving ½ to 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime can ease cough. (Don’t try this before age 1. Honey can cause botulism in infants.)
  • Remember Reye’s syndrome. Aspirin can cause this deadly illness in kids younger than 12. Use aspirin only if your doctor OKs it.

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