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Over-the-counter (OTC) cold medicines are drugs you can buy without a prescription. OTC cold medicines may help relieve symptoms of a cold. Cold medicines do not cure or shorten a cold. Most colds go away in 1 to 2 weeks. Often, children get better without needing these medicines.
OTC cold medicines can help treat cold symptoms to make your child feel better. They may: shrink the swollen lining of the nose, throat, and sinuses, relieve sneezing and an itchy, runny nose, clear mucus from the airways (cough remedies), suppress coughs. Most cold medicines also include acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help relieve headaches, fever, and aches and pains.
OTC cold medicines may cause serious side effects, including: seizures, rapid heartbeat, reduced consciousness, Reye syndrome (from aspirin). Taking too many different medicines also may cause harm. Most OTC cold remedies contain more than one active ingredient. Avoid giving more than one OTC cold medicine to your child. It may cause an overdose with severe side effects.
When giving OTC cold medicines to your child:
Ask yourself if your child really needs it - a cold will go away on its own without treatment.
Read the label. Check the active ingredients and strength.
Follow the dosage instructions strictly while giving an OTC medicine to your child. Use the syringe or measuring cup provided with the liquid medicines. DO NOT use a household spoon.
Never give OTC medicines to children under the age of 2. DO NOT give aspirin if your child is younger than 12 to 14 years.
Store medicines in a cool, dry area. Keep all medicines out of reach of children.
See a doctor if your child has: fever, earache, yellow green mucus, pain or swelling in the face, breathing problems or chest pain, symptoms that lasts longer than 10 days or that get worse over time.