American Academy of Pediatrics

View all recommendations from this society

Released February 21, 2013

Cough and cold medicines should not be prescribed or recommended for respiratory illnesses in children under four years of age.

Research has shown these products offer little benefit to young children and can have potentially serious side effects. Many cough and cold products for children have more than one ingredient, increasing the chance of accidental overdose if combined with another product.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) employed a three-stage process to develop its list. Using the Academy’s varied online, print and social media communication vehicles, the first stage invited leadership of the Academy’s 88 national clinical and health policy-driven committees, councils and sections to submit potential topics via an online survey. The second stage involved expert review and evaluation of the management groups that oversee the functions of the committees, councils and sections. Based on a set of criteria (evidence to document unproven clinical benefit, potential to cause harm, over-prescribed and utilized, and within the purview of pediatrics) a list of more than 100 topics was narrowed down to five. Finally, the list was reviewed and approved by the Academy’s Board of Directors and Executive Committee.

AAP’s disclosure and conflict of interest policy can be found at www.aap.org.

Sources

Carr BC. Efficacy, abuse, and toxicity of over-the-counter cough and cold medications in the pediatric population. Currt Opin Pediatrics. 2006 Apr;18(2):184–88.

Irwin RS, Baumann MH, Bolser DC, Boulet LP, Braman SS, Brightling CE, Brown KK, Canning BJ, Chang AB, Dicpinigaitis PV, Eccles R, Glomb WB, Goldstein LB, Graham LM, Hargreave FE, Kvale PA, Lewis SZ, McCool FD, McCrory DC, Prakash UB, Pratter MR, Rosen MJ, Schulman E, Shannon JJ, Smith Hammond C, Tarlo SM; American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP). Diagnosis and management of cough executive summary: ACCP evidence-based clinical practice guidelines. Chest. 2006 Jan;129(1_suppl): 1S–23S.

Isbister GK, Prior F, Kilham HA. Restricting cough and cold medications in children. J Paediatr Child Health [Internet] 2012 Feb;48(2):91–8.

Schaeffer MK, Shehab N, Cohen AL, Budnitz DS. Adverse events from cough and cold medication in children. Pediatrics [Internet]. 2008 Apr;121(4):783–87.

Sharfstein JM, North M, Serwint JR. Over the counter but no longer under the radar – pediatric cough and cold medications. N Eng J Med [Internet].2007 Dec 6;357(23):2321–4.