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Using Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Products in Children

Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  1. Do not give children medications labeled only for adults.
  2. Talk to your health care professional, such as your doctor or pharmacist, if you have any questions about using cough or cold medicines in children.
  3. Choose OTC cough and cold medicines with child-resistant safety caps, when available. After each use, make sure to close the cap tightly and store the medicines out of the sight and reach of children.
  4. Check the "active ingredients" section of the "Drug Facts" label of the medicines that you choose. This section will help you understand what symptoms the active ingredients in the medicine are intended to treat. Cough and cold medicines often have more than one active ingredient, such as an antihistamine, a decongestant, a cough suppressant, an expectorant, or a pain reliever and fever reducer.
  5. Be very careful if you are giving more than one medicine to a child. Make sure the medicines do not have the same type of active ingredients. For example, do not give a child more than one medicine that has a decongestant. If you use two medicines that have the same or similar active ingredients, your child could be harmed by getting too much of an ingredient.
  6. Carefully follow the directions for how to use the medicine in the "Drug Facts" part of the label. These directions tell you how much medicine to give and how often you can give it. If you have a question about how to use the medicine, ask your pharmacist or other health care professional. Overuse or misuse of these products can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening side effects, such as rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, breathing problems, and seizures.
  7. Only use measuring devices that come with the medicine or those specially made for measuring drugs. Do not use household spoons to measure medicines for children because household spoons come in different sizes and are not meant for measuring medicines.
  8. Understand that using OTC cough and cold medicines does not cure the cold or cough. These medicines only treat your child's symptoms, such as runny nose, congestion, fever, and aches. They do not shorten the length of time your child is sick.

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