Tips on giving over-the-counter cold (OTC) medications to children over 4 years old.

Drug companies recently announced they are voluntarily changing the labels for OTC cold and cough medicines in a nod to the arguments from physicians who care for children that these medications may have significant risks, even for children over age 4, if not given correctly. So, what’s a parent to do?

My Take?

I join the FDA in making these recommendations to parents who use OTC cold medications for children over age 4:

Do not give children medications labeled only for adults.

Choose OTC cough and cold medicines with child-resistant safety caps, and keep them out of reach of little ones.

Be very careful if you are giving more than one medicine to a child — make sure that they do not have the same type of “active ingredients.” If you use two medicines that have the same or similar active ingredients, a child could get too much of one, which could be dangerous. For example, do not give a child more than one medicine that has a decongestant.

Only use measuring devices that come with the medicine or those specially made for measuring drugs. Do not use common household spoons to measure medicines for children because they come in imprecise sizes and are not meant for measuring medicines.

Understand that using OTC cough and cold medicines does not cure the cold or cough or even cut short the time your child is sick. These medicines only treat your child’s symptoms.

You can learn more at the FDA website in an article entitled How to Give Medicine to Children.