Cold and Cough Medicines Don’t Work

You’re probably wondering why you can’t find over-the-counter cold and cough medications for your children lately. You’re not alone! Recently the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) voted that over-the-counter (OTC) cold and cough medications should not be used for children under 6 years of age. This is because there is not enough evidence to prove effectiveness of these medications in young children. Moreover, single-ingredient or combination cold and cough medications do not relieve cold and cough symptoms in children under 6 years.

Since efficacy of cold and cough medications was determined from data for adults, no assumptions can be made about safety of the recommended doses for children. Before you treat your child with an over-the-counter cold and cough medication, consult with your health care provider.

But don’t worry! Cough suppressants need only be used when the cough keeps your child up at night or she is constantly coughing during the day. If she is coughing only once in a while, you don’t have to suppress it. Cough is beneficial to the healing process because it clears the respiratory system from mucus. It only needs treatment when it becomes excessive.

While you watch the progression of your child’s cold, there are steps that you can take to improve her odds of improvement:

1. Rest and drink plenty of fluids. Clear fluids such as warm tea, water, and soup will help to thin out your respiratory secretions. Don’t forget chicken soup as it works like an expectorant.

2. To battle nasal congestion, use the old-fashioned saline nasal spray. The salty water in saline nasal sprays is not addictive like some of the decongestant nasal sprays available over-the-counter and it’s very effective in moisturizing nasal mucosa and controlling congestion. Saline nasal sprays are very safe to use even in infants. They can be used even every hour if needed.

You should seek medical advice when you notice these symptoms:

Green nasal discharge for 2-3 days

Coughing up green phlegm

Excessive headache accompanied by fever

Worsening cough

Symptoms come on suddenly and are severe

Symptoms are worse after 5 days from cold’s onset

Chronic illness seems to be exacerbated by the cold

Anytime you think your child is sick enough

If you are breastfeeding, review my article “Breastfeeding and cold medications” at