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Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines are those medicines that you can buy for your child without having a prescription from your doctor. OTC a cough and cold medicines can surely help to relieve common cold symptoms such as:

  •    cough
  •    stuffy or runny nose
  •     fever
  •    body aches
  •    sore throat

Preferably you can buy these types of medicines at any local grocery or drug store near your vicinity, but that does not mean they are harmless. If they are taken in an inappropriate way, it can make your child feel worse and can even be harmful rather than relieve the illness.

History of the drug

Heroin was originally marketed or sold as a cough suppressant way back in 1898. It was believed at that time to be a non-addictive alternative to other opiate-containing cough syrups. It was quickly realized as a mistake, as heroin readily breaks down into morphine in the body. And morphine was already known to be addictive.

Different Types of OTC

There are several numbers of a different cough and cold medications, which can be used for various coughing symptoms. There are commercially available products that may include various combinations of any one or more of the following five types of substances:

  •    Expectorants are substances that are claimed to make coughing easier while enhancing the production of mucus and phlegm. Two examples are:
  • acetylcysteine
  • guaifenesin
  •  Antitussives also known as cough suppressants, are substances which suppress the coughing itself. Examples are:
  • codeine
  • pholcodine
  • dextromethorphan
  • noscapine
  • butamirate
  • Antihistamines can produce a mild sedation effect and can reduce other symptoms, like a runny nose and watery eyes; one example is diphenhydramine.
  • Decongestants relieve the nasal congestion. (ephedrine)
  •  Antipyretics are substances that can reduce fever. (paracetamol)

Furthermore, there are drugs that do not have any scientific proof supporting the effectiveness of over-the-counter cough medicines to reduce coughing. These brand names include:

  • Benily
  • Sudafed
  • Robitussin
  • Vicks

Most contain a number of active ingredients.

Effects of the Drug

When used, over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medicines preferably are safe for children older than 4 years of age and it may help to relieve some but not all of your child’s symptoms. You should not give these medicines to children younger than 4 years of age unless there is a prescription of the doctor or physician.

There is a difference between a child’s body when processing the medicine than the adult body. With this, some OTC medicines are made just for children for specific dosing instructions for children. Refuse to give medicines made just for adults to your child. It is still best to see your family doctor if you have any questions regarding OTC cough or cold medicines.

Here are some reminders before purchasing OTC cough and cold medicines:

If a doctor recommends you to give your child an OTC medicine, ask the following questions:

  •    Why are you recommending this medicine?
  •    How much medicine should I give my child?
  •    How often should I give my child this medicine?
  •    What effect should this medicine have on my child’s symptoms?
  •    Will this medicine cause any side effects?
  •    Is there anything my child should avoid eating or doing while taking this medicine?

How to assure in giving a child the right amount of medicine?

It is important to read the directions on the drug label to learn how much medicine to give your child and how often to give it to him or her. If you have questions on how much medicine you should give your child, see a doctor or pharmacist.

Follow these tips to help make sure you give your child the right amount of medicine:

  •    Give only the amount that is recommended on the medicine’s label. Don’t assume that more medicine will work better. It might be dangerous.
  •    Don’t use an ordinary kitchen spoon to measure liquid medicine. Preferably you can ask a pharmacist for a measuring device such as a spoon made for measuring medicine, or a syringe or a cup that is labeled with both teaspoons (tsp) and milliliters (mL).
  •    Keep a record of what type of OTC medicines you are giving to your child and when you last gave your child a dose. If you take your child to the doctor, take this list with you.

What should I do if a child has a bad reaction to an OTC cough or cold medicine?

If a child responded negatively to any OTC medicine, do not give him or her the medicine and consult your doctor right away. If you have a medicine log for your child, bring it to your child’s appointment. You will need important information about what happened, including:

  •    Name of the medicine
  •    How much was given
  •    What it was used to treat
  •    The side effects or bad response
  •    Names of other medicines your child was taking at the same time

What else can I do to relieve my child’s cough and cold symptoms?

There’s a lot of ways to help your child to feel better without giving him or her medicine. The most important thing to do is:

  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest and drinks plenty of fluids.
  • If your child experiences a stuffy nose, saline nose drops might be a safe, because it has a non-irritating way to relieve congestion.
  • Placing a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room overnight is also a help to relieve a stuffy nose, congestion or a cough.
  • Or you can turn your bathroom into a steam room by closing the door and turning the shower on hot. Sit outside the shower with your child for about 15 minutes.

There are two commonly abused medicines namely:

  •    Dextromethorphan (DXM), a cough suppressant and expectorant. It can produce:
  • euphoria
  • dissociative effects
  • hallucinations when taken greater than the recommended therapeutic dose.
  •    Promethazine-codeine cough syrup, it is a medication that contains codeine, an opioid that acts as a cough suppressant and can also produce relaxation and euphoria. This drug also contains promethazine HCl, an antihistamine that additionally acts as a sedative.

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