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Children age 3 and younger should not be given over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This includes decongestants, expectorants, and cough suppressants.
Studies show that these medicines don't alleviate symptoms in kids of any age, and may cause side effects such as irritability, stomach pain, or excessive sleepiness. In very rare cases, these medications can cause serious problems including a rapid heart rate, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, or seizures.
To ease your baby's symptoms, you may want to try a humidifier or another home remedy. You can also ask your child's doctor for suggestions.
If your baby is feverish, ask the doctor about giving infant ibuprofen (if your baby is at least 6 months old) or acetaminophen (if he's at least 3 months old). Never give your baby aspirin because it makes him more susceptible to Reye's syndrome, a rare but potentially fatal disease.
Note: If you have older children, it's important to check with the doctor about using OTC cough and cold medicines. For 4- and 5-year-olds, the AAP recommends that these medicines be given only if a doctor has specifically advised it. It's safe to give cough and cold medicine to children age 6 and older, but follow the dosage instructions carefully. And if the cough or cold medicine contains acetaminophen or ibuprofen, don't give your child a separate dose of a pain reliever.