Secretary: Suzanne Harvey
Royal Brompton Hospital,
77 Wimpole Street,
London, W1G 9RU

Respiratory Conditions

Should You Give Your Child Cough Medicine?


Cough medicine might seem like the obvious answer when your child is feeling ill, but there are some good reasons to avoid heading to the pharmacy when your child is coughing.

Cough Medicine Isn’t Effective

The main reason to avoid giving your child cough medicine is that there is no evidence that it can actually help. You may just be wasting your time trying to get your child to take the medication when he or she is already feeling under the weather. Studies have shown that these medicines are no better than a placebo at treating coughs.

The same is true of cough drops or lozenges. Sucking on a hard sweet can be just as effective as taking a lozenge that contains active ingredients. A sweet could help to soothe your child’s throat when he or she has a cough, but remember not to offer hard sweets to children under 5 as there is a risk of choking. Using lozenges can also cause coughs to last longer. Cough drops that contain menthol have been linked to coughs that don’t go away after the infection has gone. These persistent coughs often disappear quickly once the patients stop using the cough drops.

Medication Can Cause Serious Side Effects

Although cough medicine won’t help your child, it can still have an effect on them. Cough medicines contain ingredients that can put your child at risk of potentially serious side effects, especially if they are used incorrectly. Giving the wrong medication or dosage to a child could even be fatal. Even though the risk of serious side effects is low when cough medicines and lozenges are used correctly, it probably isn’t worth giving these drugs to your child as there is no apparent benefit to using them.

What Can You Do Instead?

Although cough drops and medicine might not help, there are still some things you can do to help your child to feel more comfortable. Lots of rest and fluids can help with all kinds of colds and infections, including those that cause coughs. You might also want to give your child a painkiller to help relieve fever or other symptoms. Make sure that you choose a child-friendly medication and follow the instructions on the packet.

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Suzanne Harvey



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