Side effects of cough and cold medicines

Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines can cause serious side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, vomiting or constipation.

Some people may not be able to use certain medicines, including:

  • children
  • older people
  • people with particular medical conditions or taking certain medicines
  • women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Advice about cough and cold medicines for children changed from 15 August 2012.

  • Cough and cold medicines should not be given to children younger than 6 years of age.
  • 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 the cough medicines and nasal decongestants affected by this change.

Before using any medicine, check with a doctor or pharmacist about the safest one for you or your child. Always read the information on the label and the consumer medicine information (CMI) leaflet for your medicine (if available).

Who can I ask about side effects?

If you’re concerned that you or someone in your care may have had side effects related to a medicine, seek medical advice.

People with questions about their medicines or seeking general information about side effects can also call the NPS Medicines Line on 1300 633 424 (Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm AEST).

To report possible side effects call the Adverse Medicine Events (AME) Line on 1300 134 237 from anywhere in Australia (Monday–Friday, 9am–5pm AEST).