Coughs that are caused by a viral respiratory tract infection (e.g. a cold or flu) will usually get better within 10 days, but can last up to 3 weeks. Your cough and other symptoms will improve as your body fights the infection, and if you are generally healthy, you won’t need treatment.
Cough and cold medicines for children
- Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children younger than 6 years old.
- Ask a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner for advice before giving cough and cold medicines to children aged 6 to 11 years.
Cough medicines can also sometimes cause unwanted side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, vomiting or constipation.
Find out more about the side effects of cough and cold medicines.
Note: This video explains some of the reasons that cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children. Since it was filmed, the Therapeutic Goods Administration has recommended that cough and cold medicines should not be given to children younger than 6 years old, and should only be given to children aged 6 to 11 years on the advice of a doctor, pharmacist or nurse practitioner.
Produced by GSB, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and NPS MedicineWise, 2010.
- Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008;(1):CD001831.pub3. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub4/abstract (accessed 13 December 2012).
- Chang CC, Cheng AC, Chang AB. Over-the-counter (OTC) medications to reduce cough as an adjunct to antibiotics for acute pneumonia in children and adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007;(4):CD006088.pub3. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006088.pub2/pdf/standard (accessed 13 December 2012).
- Rossi S, ed. Australian Medicines Handbook [online]. Adelaide: AMH, July 2012.
- Sung S. Cough and cold remedies for children. Aust Prescr 2009;32:122. www.australianprescriber.com/magazine/32/5/122/4 (accessed 22 February 2012).
- National Prescribing Service. NPS News 63: Managing expectations for antibiotics in respiratory tract infections. Sydney: NPS, 2009. www.nps.org.au/publications/health-professional/nps-news/2009/nps-news-63 (accessed 13 December 2012).