Cough medicines

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.

Find out more information about cough medicines and nasal decongestants.

Even though cough medicines are widely used, most have not been studied in clinical trials at all, so there is very little reliable information about the effectiveness of cough medicines in adults or in children.

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.

References