Infants are from 0 to 12 months old, so when looking at over the counter medication you need to know their classification and their actual, not estimated weight. Treating your baby with any medication is dangerous unless your pediatrician recommends it, and assures you it is safe. Under 3 months old, a sick baby needs to be seen by a doctor as soon as possible. Fever may be the only symptom of a severe and possibly fatal infection in infants, so please don’t delay that doctor’s visit. Kids usually have a week immune system, will makes them prone to colds and coughing is one of the major symptoms. Can you use cold and cough medicines for infants? Are there any natural remedies to relive the symptoms?

 Is Cold and Cough Medicine for Infants Safe?

Cough and cold medicine are potentially dangerous for babies or children under two according to the FDA. The side effects of the usual medicines can be a rapid heart rate and even convulsions and they are not effective against the common cold. At best, you might be able to give them something to ease their suffering, but not without the doctor’s ok. Always consult your doctor before giving your baby over-the-counter expectorant, cough suppressant, decongestant, or antihistamine.

Once again, when using cold and cough medicine for infants under three months, consult a physician, for babies over 3 months ask about using Tylenol (acetaminophen). After 7 months, ask about alternating ibuprofen (Motrin) and Tylenol, request the correct dosage for your child and how to schedule the alternating medications.

Precautions and Warnings

  • Never ignore the danger of aspirin in children under 18 years of age. Reyes syndrome is nearly always fatal, and 95% of Reyes patients were given aspirin while having a viral infection. You can’t know if what your child has is viral or bacterial, so to be safe, NO ASPIRIN. There is actually a warning on the aspirin label, but it is so small you can barely read it.
  • Should you decide to medicate your baby with over the counter medicine, there are a few points to keep in mind. Never give two medications that contain the same ingredients, read the labels, and write down the time you gave it.
  • Measure twice according to the instructions on the bottle, if it is weight based, they usually are, so keep a written record of your baby’s weight in kilograms or pounds. The directions can be confusing so we put together the following chart and tips for your convenience and safety.

For more information about cold and cough medicine for infants and what you can do to help your infants, watch the following video:

5 Natural Remedies to Soothe Cold and Cough in Infants

The average course for a cold is a little over a week - time is the only recognized remedy at the moment.  However, there are many things you can do to relieve the suffering of your baby, both the cough and other cold symptoms.

1.    Fluids

Keeping your infant well hydrated is one of the most important things you can do. Babies need to continue with their normal routine of breast milk or formula to get the nourishment they need. You can also supplement with an electrolyte solution, but never just plain water, their kidneys do not process water the same as adults and it can cause problems.

Warning: The one thing mothers used to give was a warm homemade drink with honey in it. It has been discovered, that Infant botulism is a genuine risk for children under one year of age that receive honey. So be careful with that. 

2.    Avoiding Irritants

Smoke can irritate your baby’s inflamed airways. Do not smoke athome because that will further irritate your infant’s throat, causing more cough. Other sources of smoke such as wood-burning fire and grills should also be kept away from your baby.

3.    Vapor Rubs

Not all vapor rubs are equal - some are specifically formulated to be safe with small babies. They are often eucalyptus-based oils that can be massaged onto the chest and back, double check to be certain there are no areas of broken or raw skin.

4.    A Cool-mist Humidifier

A humidifier or vaporizer can add moisture to a room and aid in relieving dry airway passages making breathing more comfortable, thus relieving the cough. You should be wary about using the same fluids for longer than 24 hours, bacteria can grow in there and that would be hazardous instead of helpful.

5.    Suctioning

If you keep your baby’s nasal passage clear they not only breathe easier, they can suckle easier. This is a common omission by new moms - they don’t always realize that a stuffy nose means the infant has to choose between drinking and breathing. Breathing more easily can make them less prone to coughing.

The following video explains how baby massage can help to relive cough and colds in your baby:

When to See a Doctor

Parents, especially new parents find it difficult to know when to take the baby to the emergency room or wait to see a doctor. The bottom line is clear - if you are concerned about the condition of your baby, just go seek a professional opinion. The thought of missing an important sign that could be serious is not something you take a chance on. Certainly if your baby has a cough that wont permit a reasonable amount of sleep, or breath sounds have a strange tone, don’t postpone a visit to the quickest available resource.

For babies past the age of 3 months, you have to watch for signs of lack of fluids and infection and then you can decide if and when to seek help. The early signs of dehydration can be subtle, but knowing what to look for helps. Babies often become tired, sleeping much longer than usual, their mouth is dry and they cry yet have no tears. Basic information should be kept in mind whenever your child is sick. How much have they had to drink and how many times have they wet their diaper. If they are not drinking much, they have a fever, and are not urinating as much as usual, you need to take them to the doctor.

For more information on home remedies for baby cough, click here