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Cough and Cold Medicine Safety: The Essential Dos and Don'ts


December 15, 2017 Posted in: Family Health , Article

With winter approaching, you might be thinking about stocking up on over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines. But there are several things you should know about cough and cold medicine safety.

Usually, these products contain many different ingredients, and it's possible to unintentionally harm yourself or your child if you mix up products or dosages. Because cough and cold medicine safety is so important, here are several things you should keep in mind.

The Dos

  • Do be sure you're using the right product. There are many OTC cold and cough medications for adults and children, but adult-strength medications typically have more medication in them. If you're giving medication to a child, be sure you're using a children's product.
  • Do use the right product for your symptoms. Because different ingredients in cold and cough medications treat different symptoms, you should match the product to your symptoms to avoid giving yourself unnecessary medication.
  • Do follow the label instructions for how much and how often you can take the medicine. The label instructions will also tell you how to safely administer the medication.
  • Do pay attention to the maximum number of days you or your child should take the medication. OTC cough and cold medications are only intended for short-term use.
  • Do read the medication label for any special instructions, such as activities or foods you or your child should avoid while taking an OTC cough or cold medication.
  • Do store cough and cold medicines in their original containers and away from children.

The Don'ts

  • Don't give a child under 2 years old any cough or cold medications. These products can cause life-threatening side effects in infants and toddlers.
  • Don't give adult-strength cough or cold medication to an older child. Giving adult-strength medications to children can lead to accidental overdose.
  • Don't give OTC products containing codeine to children under 12 years old or children between 12 and 18 years old who have severe lung disease or are obese. Some states sell OTC cough and cold medications containing codeine, while a prescription is necessary in others.
  • Don't use more than one OTC cough or cold medication at a time. Doing so can cause an accidental overdose.
  • Don't store these products in a hot or humid location. That can make OTC cough and cold medications less effective before their expiration dates.
  • Don't use an OTC cough or cold medication if it has expired.
  • Don't take OTC cough and cold medications for long periods of time. These products are designed to work quickly. If you or your child are still experiencing symptoms after a few days, or if the symptoms are getting worse, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Cough and cold medicine safety is an important issue, but it's easy to keep yourself and your family safe. If you have any questions or concerns, your doctor can help you select the right OTC cough and cold medications for you or your child.

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