Be ‘medicinewise’ with cough and cold medicines in young children

NPS MedicineWise is urging parents and health professionals to heed the advice from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) this week restricting the use of cough and cold medicines to treat young children amidst concerns they have limited efficacy and may even be harmful.

A review conducted by the TGA found that there was little credible research showing the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines, particularly in children, and these medicines should not be given to children younger than 6 years old.

The new advice recommends that parents should also ask a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner for advice before giving cough and cold medicines to children aged 6 to 11 years.

NPS MedicineWise Head of Programs Ms Karen Kaye says that the new advice reflects that the potential for harm from cough and cold medicines in young children outweighs the potential benefits.

“It can be distressing to have a child who has a cough, cold or flu but we have known for some time that there is little evidence for the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines,” says Ms Kaye.

“This is because few clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of cough and cold medicines, particularly in children, but some of the active ingredients in these medicines may cause serious side effects in children, for example seizures or fits.

“To reflect the new advice, labels on these medicines are being changed to indicate that they should not be given to children under 6, and that you should ask your doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner before giving the medicine to children aged 6 to 11.”

There are a range of ways parents can help manage their child’s symptoms when they are unwell with a cough or cold.

“Parents often think that a medicine is required when their child has a cough or cold, but there are many simple remedies that can help to relieve their symptoms, including making sure your child gets plenty of rest, ensuring they drink plenty of water and avoiding exposing your child to cigarette smoke,” says Ms Kaye.

“You can supervise your child while they breathe in steam from a hot bath or shower in a closed room, a drink made with hot water, honey and lemon is a simple and effective home remedy, and for older children an ice cube or a throat lozenge can soothe a sore throat. If your child has a fever (a temperature higher than 38.5°C) and this is making your child uncomfortable or miserable, paracetamol can be given to help ease any discomfort.”

Ms Kaye adds that parents should speak to their doctor if they are worried or have further questions.

“If you have any concerns about your child’s health, if their symptoms get worse or if their symptoms don’t improve you should certainly speak to a health professional,” she says.

Before using any medicine, check with a doctor or pharmacist about the safest one for you or your child. Always read the information on the label and the consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine (if available).

Updated information about cough and cold medicines is available on the NPS MedicineWise website at

People with questions about their medicines should speak to their health professional or call Medicines Line on 1300 MEDICINE (1300 633 424, 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday for the cost of a local call).


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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