Skip directly to search Skip directly to A to Z list Skip directly to navigation Skip directly to site content Skip directly to page options
CDC Home

Cold and Cough Medicines: Information for Parents

Each year, thousands of children under age 12 go to emergency rooms after taking over-the-counter cough and cold medicines. Most of these children were unsupervised when they took the medicine.

In response to safety concerns, the leading manufacturers of children's cough and cold medicines are voluntarily changing the labels on these products to state that they should not be used in children younger than 4 years of age.

Previously, the labels stated that these medicines should not be given to children under age 2. Products with the old labels will not be removed immediately from store shelves but are expected to gradually be replaced with products bearing the new labels. Doctors and nurses should be aware of the new labels and alert parents and caregivers about this important change.

Parents can help protect their children by doing the following:


Keep your kids healthy.

  • Throw away old cold and cough medicines labeled for children less than age 4.
  • Read the label carefully to see what ingredients are in any medicine you give your child.


  • Don't leave any medicines where your child might be able to reach them.
  • Don't tell children that medicine is candy.
  • Don't take adult medicines in front of your child.
  • Don't give children younger than age 4 any medicines intended for older children.
  • Don't give your child two medicines that contain the same ingredients.

For tips on safely managing coughs and colds, talk to your child's doctor or your pharmacist.

More Information


CDC 24/7 - Saving Lives. Protecting People.
Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd
    Atlanta, GA 30333
  • 800-CDC-INFO
    TTY: (888) 232-6348
  • Contact CDC-INFO
  • Page last reviewed: January 14, 2009
  • Page last updated: September 11, 2009 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC-INFO