14 Safety Tips for Giving Your Child Over-the-Counter Medicines

All children will get sick at one time or another. Sometimes you can treat your child’s symptoms with an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine. Before you give your child any OTC medicine, read these tips to keep him or her safe.


  • Always read the medicine label. Follow the dosing instructions as shown or as provided by your doctor.
  • Check the dosing directions to make sure the medicine is right for your child’s age.
  • Always give the recommended dose. If the medicine comes with a measuring device, use it. If it doesn’t, ask your pharmacist for one. Never use a household spoon as a substitute for the measuring device.
  • Use your child’s weight as the dosage guideline, when possible.
  • Only give medicine that treats your child’s specific symptoms.
  • Always talk to your doctor before giving your child two OTC medicines at the same time. Giving multiple medicines that contain any of the same active ingredients can be dangerous for your child.
  • If your child develops any side effects that concern you, stop giving the medicine and contact your doctor right away.
  • Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about OTC medicines for your child.
  • Store all medicines safely out of your child’s reach and sight.


  • Don’t give oral cough and cold medicines to children younger than 4.
  • Don’t give your child medicine prescribed for adults.
  • Don’t give aspirin-containing products to your child and adolescent to treat cold or flu symptoms.
  • Don’t use expired medicine.
  • Don’t use cough, cold, or allergy medicines as a way to make your child sleepy.

For more information about safe medicine use with children, visit KnowYourOTCs.org.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Protect Your Children: Store & Use Medicines Safely

S. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration: Daily Medicine Record for Your Child

Many rely on OTC cough and cold medicines to help children feel better when they are sick, and it is important that parents and caregivers know how to give these medicines to children safely. Treat with Care arms parents and caregivers with the information they need to safely give OTC cough and cold medicines to their little ones.

Funding and support for this material have been provided by the CHPA Educational Foundation.