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:
- 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.
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).
- 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.pub4. 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.pub3/abstract (accessed 21 March 2012).
- Rossi S, ed. Australian Medicines Handbook [online]. Adelaide: AMH, January 2013.
- 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).