Is Cough Medicine Safe for My Baby?

Although I am currently in the young and married with no kids demographic, I do have friends who are also young and married but have already started their own families. Emily is one of these friends. We officially met during junior prom when we found out we were in the same group (I say “officially” because we’d grown up knowing one another but hadn’t yet been introduced).

Over time we became close friends (that rarely see each other, but that’s life, right?). I was able to see her a few times after she became pregnant, and later when she’d had her baby – a precious, adorable girl!

A few weeks ago, Emily was telling me that her baby had been coughing nonstop for a couple of days. Knowing nothing about babies, I asked if she’d administered any cough medicine. Emily told me that babies shouldn’t be given cough medicine, which sparked my curiosity. Why can’t you give babies cough medicine?

Perfect topic for a blog post! I figure there are others out there who are like me – clueless and looking for answers. So, I did some research and found answers to why cough medicine shouldn’t be given to babies, as well as alternatives that can be administered.

Cough medicine bottle

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that “children under two years of age should not be given any kind of cough and cold product. Reported side effects included convulsions, rapid heart rates, and death.” These side effects are rare, yet still serious adverse effects.

“Children under 2 years of age should not be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine because serious and possibly life-threatening side effects could occur. … During 2004-2005, an estimated 1,519 children less than 2 years of age were treated in U.S. emergency departments for adverse events, including overdoses, associated with cough and cold medications.”

Summary: The ingredients inside most cough and cold medicines are not safe for newborns and infants, even toddlers, to consume. It’s always important to read the labels on any medications we’ll be administering to our children. Overdosing is also a problem, as most over-the-counter medicines aren’t meant for children under the age of 4. If you have questions concerning over-the-counter medicines and/or cough medicines, seek help from a medical professional.

Options: What can you do for your baby instead? Consider using one of the following cough medicine alternatives from WebMD. They’re drug-free and safe for newborns.

Try Saline Drops

Saline nasal drops can thin the mucus in your baby’s nose and shrink swollen airways. Use them two or three times per day; any more could make your baby’s nose sore.

Saline drops may make it easier to remove mucus from your child's nose. Put a few drops in each nostril and allow to sit for about 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, use a suction bulb to remove the mucus.

Increase Fluids

When your child isn't feeling well, give more drinks than usual.

Babies under 6 months should only drink breast milk or formula, not water, cow's milk or juice. You can offer more formula or breast milk than usual when your baby has a cough or cold.

Raise Baby's Head

Have you ever slept with extra pillows when you had a stuffy nose to breathe more easily? This trick works for babies too. Simply place a pillow or folded towel under the head of your baby's mattress to create a slight angle. This will raise the head safely and help your baby to breathe.

What are some methods you use? I’m sure there is a multitude of other ways to help mediate a cold or help a baby’s cough. Asking someone experienced is always a good idea, but remember to use your best judgment, follow your instincts on how to help your baby, and consult your medical provider.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published