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Cough Medicines and Children


Cough medicine can be confusing. Many different medicines for coughs are available without a prescription. Many nonprescription cough and cold medicines contain several ingredients to treat many symptoms.


Expectorants are cough medicines that may help to keep the mucus thin and bring up mucus from the lungs with a cough. The drug used most often as an expectorant is guaifenesin.


Cough suppressants are medicines that may lessen the urge to cough. Cough medicines with the initials DM in the name contain the suppressant drug called dextromethorphan.


Cough syrup that contains an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine, may cause children to be sleepy. Antihistamines can also make the mucus dry and hard to cough up.


Do not give cough medicines to children under the age of 4 unless your child's healthcare provider has told you to.


Things that can help when your child has a cough are:

  • Drinking a lot of water to help loosen and bring up mucus.
  • Drinking warm liquids such as soup or hot apple juice.
  • Using a cool-mist humidifier, especially in the bedroom, and
  • Staying away from anyone who is smoking.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.


HIA File drug3808.htm Release 13/2010

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