Which medicines are we talking about?
Over-the-counter cold and cough medicines generally fall into the following four categories, though the majority of medicines contain multiple ingredients to treat various symptoms (look for wording like "multi-symptom," "cough & cold," "decongestant plus cough", etc.)
- Decongestants: Supposed to relieve nasal congestion, but can cause side effects like increased heart rate, jitteriness, vomiting and shaking. Ex: Sudafed.
- Antihistamines: Supposed to dry up runny noses, though they really only effectively treat symptoms caused by allergies, not cold viruses, says Ari Brown, MD, pediatrician and author of Baby 411 and Toddler 411. "And though they are sedating, recent research shows that babies and kids with colds don't sleep any better after receiving an antihistamine," she says. Side effects include hyperactivity, drowsiness, dry mouth, and, in rare cases, hallucinations. Ex: Benadryl.
- Cough suppressants: Supposed to reduce the need to cough, but can cause side effects like excessive sleepiness or jitteriness, dizziness and vomiting. Ex: Delsym, Robitussin DM.
- Cough expectorants: Supposed to loosen mucus so it's coughed up more easily. Though rarer than with other types of cold and cough medicines, side effects can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and headaches. Ex: Robitussin.
Many manufacturers have voluntarily recalled infant versions of cough and cold medications, including the ones listed below. If you still have them stashed in your medicine cabinet, toss them now. And although versions for kids 2 and older are still available, never give meds intended for older kids to your baby or toddler.
- Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
- Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
- Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough
- Little Colds Multi-Symptom Cold Formula
- PediaCare Infant Drops Decongestant (new and original formulas)
- PediaCare Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (new and original formulas)
- PediaCare Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
- Robitussin Infant Cough DM Drops
- Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant
- Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant Plus Cough
- Tylenol Concentrated Infants' Drops Plus Cold
- Tylenol Concentrated Infants' Drops Plus Cold & Cough