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Cough medicine for kids

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 3 minutes read

Walking into a pharmacy can be quite overwhelming when it comes to trying to choose the right product to ease your child’s cough. The first thing to know is that the science behind cough medicines is not conclusive, but anecdotally people find them effective in helping to reduce their severity.

The second is that your child’s cough is most likely caused by a virus – occasionally a bacteria – and the cough medicines are designed to ease symptoms but they can’t cure it or make it go any quicker.

The third thing to bear in mind is that coughs are worse at night – gravity when lying flat causes the secretions from their nose, throat and chest to pool and irritate. Just when you want them to get a good night’s sleep. So cough medicines may be a good idea at night and to have by the bedside in case they wake with a coughing fit.

Your child’s age is a good place to start when choosing a cough medicine. Many cough medicines are not suitable for children under the age of 6. For kids younger than 6 months, Calpol infant suspension and Nurofen infant suspension can be used to provide some relief, if your child has a persistent cough causing discomfort associated with a temperature. Different types of ingredients found within cough syrups have different properties to soothe irritation, hopefully aiding comfort and soothing them to sleep.

Doctor’s advice


Bronchostop Junior is an example of a cough medicine that contains honey. Honey is an ancient herbal remedy that has been used for many years to line and coat the throat to soothe the membranes. The benefit of Bronchostop is that it is free from artificial ingredients and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), lactose and gluten. It should not be used in children under 1 years old as there is a risk of developing botulinum toxicity.

Citric acid or glycerol

Simple linctus paediatric is an example of cough medicine suitable for children over 1 years old and it contains citric acid which works by coating the throat and easing the effects of coughing. Sugar-free is ideal as it prevents long term damage to the teeth.

Glycerin has a similar aim of lubricating and soothing the back of the throat, and it also protects the throat against irritants. It’s suitable for children from 3 months old and up. Examples include Benylin Infant Cough syrup and Tixylix.


Guaifenesin is an ingredient known as an expectorant. It is used to treat coughs by encouraging the secretion of sputum from the chest, providing relief and a feeling of being able to breathe more easily. It is usually for children over the age of 6 years old. Examples include Benylin Chesty Cough.

Diphenhydramine and levomenthol

These two ingredients can be found together in cough products such as Benylin Children’s Night Cough. It is suitable for children over 6 years old. Diphenhydramine is an antihistamine that clears secretions in the nose and chest and relieves cough. Levomenthol is a decongestant that works to decongest the mucus in the nose and chest.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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