Concerns about children's medication

Avoiding cough and cold medications

Fast facts

Because of the ingredients they contain, non-prescription cough and cold medicines should never be given to children under the age of six. Always check the label first to make sure the medication is suitable for your child.


In 2009, Health Canada had manufacturers re-label non-prescription cold and cough medications containing certain active ingredients to indicate they are not to be used in children under age six. Although these cough and cold medications had been used with this group for many years, there was limited evidence supporting their effectiveness. In addition, reports of misuse, overdose and rare serious side effects raised concerns about the use of these medications in children younger than six.

Check the list below to see if your medication contains an ingredient deemed unsafe for consumption by children under six years old.

Ingredients deemed unsafe for consumption by children under six years old
Therapeutic Category (Purpose) Active Ingredients
Antihistamines in cough and cold medications
(used to treat sneezing, runny nose)
  • brompheniramine maleate
  • chlorpheniramine maleate
  • dexbrompheniramine maleate
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride
  • doxylamine succinate
  • promethazine hydrochloride
  • triprolidine hydrochloride
Antitussives (used to treat cough)
  • dextromethorphan
  • dextromethorphan hydrobromide
  • diphenhydramine hydrochloride
Expectorants (used to loosen mucus)
  • guaifenesin (glyceryl guaiacolate)
Decongestants (used to treat congestion)
  • phenylephrine hydrochloride/sulphate
  • pseudoephedrine hydrochloride/sulphate

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