Pediatricians seldom recommend that parents give their children cough and cold medicines. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. They don’t taste good. Save the battle (and the “purple splatter”) you will face trying to get a “grape-flavored” cold medicine down the hatch of your infant or toddler for another time — a time when you need to give a really important medicine (like an antibiotic) to affect a cure.
  2. They can have unpleasant side effects at recommended doses. The presence of antihistamines and decongestants in these products can make your child sleepy when they should be awake, awake when they should be sleeping, and crabby as a result of both.
  3. They don’t work. Multiple peer-reviewed scientific studies done over many decades in children have failed to demonstrate efficacy in quieting coughs, alleviating runny noses, or resolving cold symptoms faster.


Amy La Porte points out one more reason why giving your infant or child cold medicine might not work out well for them — inaccurate doses:

Parents are being urged to check their medicine cabinets as two batches of generic children’s cough syrup are removed from pharmacy shelves across the country. They have been recalled due to overdose risk.

The voluntary recall was initiated after it was discovered the dosage cups included in the box had incorrect markings, leading to fears that children may be given too much medication, according to a statement from the manufacturer.

The products in question are children’s guaifenesin grape liquid (100mg/5 mL) and children’s guaifenesin DM cherry liquid (100mg guaifenesin and 5mg dextromethorphan HBr/ 5 ml) sold in 4 oz. bottles, and each including a small plastic cup…

While there have been no reported overdoses related to the medication, the Perrigo Company said side effects of an overdose can include “hyperexcitability, rapid eye movements, changes in muscle reflexes, ataxia, dystonia, hallucinations, stupor and coma,” adding that other effects have included “nausea, vomiting, tachycardia, irregular heartbeat, seizures, respiratory depression and death.”


Look. It stinks when your infant or child gets sick. Eating can be affected, and so can sleep (yours too!). Everyone in the house gets irritable — and maybe a little bit nervous — when there is a child in it who is sick. So ask yourself this question: Is this cold (or cough, or rash, or diarrhea) really bothering my child a lot? Or is it bothering me (the parent) more? If the answer is the former, please call your pediatrician’s office and we’ll discuss ways to make your child more comfortable. But if it is bothering you — really bothering you — it’s also a good idea to give us a call to talk it over. Perhaps we can give you reassurance. Or perhaps you are observing an important sign of illness that we should be aware of. Either way, let us help. It’s what we do.


Read “Stay Out Of The Cold & Flu Aisle” on The PediaBlog here.


(Back pat: Dr. Karl Holtzer)