Fort Worth, TX,
14:56 PM

Cough Syrup Isn't Worth the Risk

Experts warn parents not to use cough medicine to treat children

It’s that time of the year when coughing, sneezing and sniffling noses are seemingly everywhere. If you’re like most parents, you have a stockpile of meds in a cabinet ready to deploy on the household. But there’s one you should skip – cough medicine.

“Despite being a staple in pediatric care for decades, cough medicines don’t work,” said Justin Smith, M.D., a Cook Children’s pediatrician. “Since being first approved for use in children in 1976, they have failed to prove their effectiveness for acute cough.”

This message is echoed in a new video released by the American Chemical Society. In it, the narrator explains how antitussive drugs are supposed to block the body’s cough reflex. But most studies have found no evidence that over-the-counter medications actually work. Often, they proved no different than a placebo.


Not only do they not work, they can have serious side effects. Thousands of children are sent to the emergency room every year due to accidental overdoses on cough medicine. More than half of those are children under the age of six.

“I don’t give my children cough medicine and I don’t prescribe it for my patients,” said Dr. Smith. “Instead, parents need to know that keeping a child hydrated can help with a cough. By drinking plenty of fluids, kids are able to thin out any extra mucus triggering their cough.”

Dr. Smith says humidifiers are also helpful for children. You can place one in their bedroom while they’re sleeping to ease their breathing.

“In medicine, you have to weigh the risk with the reward. For cough medicines, there are numerous risks and possibly zero benefit.”

About the Source
Justin Smith is a pediatrician and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's His interest in communications started when he realized that his parents were relying more on the internet for medical information. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” is set to open in Trophy Club in 2017.

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