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What Medicines Can Parents Give When a Child Has a Cold?

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated May 11, 2022

What Medicines Can Parents Give When a Child Has a Cold?

Sipon or cold is a common illness in children. The good news is, it usually resolves on its own with simple home remedies. Still, colds can make children fussy and irritable all day.  That’s why it’s important to know what cold medicines for children are safe –  with or without the doctor’s prescription.  

Medicines for Cold Relief in Babies

Various cold symptoms, such as runny nose, fever, dizziness, sore throat, and cough, can make children cranky and have trouble sleeping. Your little one may also have to miss school to rest and recover. 

To support their recovery, consider the following cold medicines for children:

1. Paracetamol

Paracetamol (acetaminophen) relieves fever, headache, and sore throat that usually accompany a child’s cold. You can purchase this drug without a doctor’s prescription.

The dose of paracetamol is adjusted based on the age and weight of the child. For example, if your child is 4-5 years old and weighs around 16.4-21.7 kg, the usual dose is 240 mg. Meanwhile, if your child is 6-8 years old with a body weight of around 21.8-27.2 kg, the dose is 320 mg. For children aged 9-10 years with a body weight of about 27.3-32.6 kg, the dose is 400 mg.

Give one dose every 4-6 hours as needed. Do not exceed 5 doses in 24 hours. When administered correctly, paracetamol rarely causes side effects . However, it may have negative reactions with other medicines.

Always read the instructions for use listed on the packaging.. Do not hesitate to consult a doctor if you are in doubt about how to use paracetamol.

Important : Do not give paracetamol to children under two months of age and those who have a history of liver and kidney disease.

2. Ibuprofen

Just like paracetamol, ibuprofen can relieve cold symptoms, particularly fever and headache despite not being a cold medicine. But, unlike paracetamol, ibuprofen can address inflammation in the body as it is an anti-inflammatory medicine.

Children older than 6 months up to the age of 12 usually receive 10 mg of ibuprofen per kg of body weight.  Give one dose every 6-8 hours as needed. If unsure, get in touch with your child’s doctor.

Important : Remember that ibuprofen is “stronger” than paracetamol and it is an anti-inflammatory. Hence, you have to be more cautious with the dosage and timing – it should be given after food intake.  Ibuprofen should not be given to infants under 6 months of age or to children who are vomiting constantly and are dehydrated.

3. Nasal Sprays or Drops

Nasal sprays or drops address nasal congestion. You can buy saline sprays at your local drugstore or pharmacy without a prescription.

Sprays or drops contain a saline solution that moistens the nasal passages and loosens mucus. When the snot is a bit runny, you can easily remove it with a suction device specially designed for children.

Make sure you carefully read the labels and instructions. Likewise, you can consult a doctor first before using a nasal spray or drops for your little one.

Reminders About Cold Medicines for Children

Cold medicines for children should be administered with care. This is because some cold medicines have serious side effects if used randomly or incorrectly. 

Below are some “rules” provided by experts when giving cold medicines:

  • Do not give over-the-counter cold medicines to children under the age of two years. 
  • Cold medicines for children containing codeine or hydrocodone should not be given to kids under the age of 18 years. Codeine and hydrocodone are opioid drugs that might have serious side effects in kids.
  • Avoid using cold medicines that contain combinations of substances. The more substances a medicine has, the higher the risks are. For one, certain ingredients may not be suitable for children. Additionally, a variety of substances in one dose increase the risk of side effects and overdose.
  • Carefully read the rules for cold medicines for children, especially for non-prescription drugs.
  • Cold medicines for children are different to those given to adults. Choose a cold medicine specifically formulated for kids.
  • Always use the medicine spoon provided in the medicine package. A kitchen spoon may be different from the standard medicine measuring spoon.
  • Be careful with herbal remedies. Consult a doctor before giving  herbal medicines to kids.
  • Consult a doctor immediately if your child’s condition does not improve or it gets worse despite medicines. 
  • How To Treat a Child’s Cold at Home

    Besides cold medicines for children, some home remedies might also help them recover faster. Consider the following:

    1. Honey

    Drinking honey can help with associated cough and sore throat. You can give a teaspoon of honey to children, or dissolve honey in tea or warm water.

    However, do not give honey to children under the age of 1 as it increases the risk of infant botulism.

    2. Plenty of Fluids

    Make sure your little one drinks enough water. Not only does it prevent dehydration, but drinking lots of water helps loosen mucus, allowing them to breathe easier.

    If your little one doesn’t like drinking water, you can work around this by making warm tea, lemon water, or soup. However, do not give them sugary drinks.

    3. Humidifier

    If your child is sick, try not to set the air conditioner in his room until he is completely better. The coldness of an air-conditioned room can worsen their symptoms because AC makes the air drier.

    Instead, consider setting up a humidifier to moisten the air.

    4. Lukewarm or Tepid Bath

    Persuade your child to soak in lukewarm or tepid water before going to bed. In addition to reducing fever, children can inhale the minimal steam, which helps loosen mucus in their throat and nose.

    Cold medicines for children should be administered with care. If they don’t get better despite the medicine and home remedies, bring them to the doctor. 

    Learn more about Child Health here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hello Sehat · Updated May 11, 2022

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