9 Over-the-Counter Medicines You Should NEVER Give Your Child Without a Paediatrician's Go Signal

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9 Over-the-Counter Medicines You Should NEVER Give Your Child Without a Paediatrician’s Go Signal
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Building a baby medicine list? Well, steer clear of these 8 over-the-counter medications.

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Parents’ guide on paediatric over the counter medications Is homoeopathic medicine safe for babies?

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As parents, we want to be ready for anything that our child needs. That’s why we stock up on their favourite food, the milk they prefer, and even vitamins and medicines that “work” on them when they have colds or a tummyache.

Especially in these times when it’s hard to just bring your child to the doctor whenever she’s not feeling well, it pays to be prepared.

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In fact, it’s wise to prepare a first aid kit in case of emergencies. Like when your child gets a fever or starts feeling ill in the middle of the night.

Your first aid kit for baby should include a thermometer, an ice pack, and a few over-the-counter medicines for your child (read more about preparing a first aid kit here.)

In preparing a baby medicine list, some parents often get the mistake of getting medicines that they heard was effective for some kids. Without thinking if this will also benefit their child. Worse, they go to the internet first before consulting their child’s paediatrician.

However, did you know that some over-the-counter medications or medicines that you can just buy without a prescription are actually not safe for children?

Image from Unsplash

Over-the-counter Medicines That You Should AVOID Giving Your Child

According to Christopher Sulowski, the deputy chief of the paediatric emergency department and associate professor in the department of paediatrics at McMaster University, the practice of giving your child over-the-counter medicines without a doctor’s advice should be avoided.

“We tell a lot of parents to exercise caution when using this, that or the other thing they got at the drugstore. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s a good thing,” he said.

From an article in Today’s Parent, Sulowski discussed some paediatric over-the-counter medications that should not be given without a doctor’s advice:

 Aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid)

Aspirin for kids is a big no-no, said Sulowski. It has been proven to cause Reye’s Syndrome, a potentially life-threatening disease that can lead to swelling in the liver and the brain. Taking aspirin in viral illnesses can cause nausea, vomiting, and extreme tiredness that progresses to a coma.

Some medicines that are used to treat headache and nausea may contain aspirin. So make sure to always read labels and check with your doctor before giving them to your child.

Also, some aspirin-containing medicines use words other than aspirin. Such as salicylate or acetylsalicylate, so be wary of these too. Aspirin of any type should never be given at home, especially without any prescription.


Ibuprofen is a common painkiller used to treat headaches and symptoms of cold, toothache, and even injuries. It is available for children in liquid form and chewable tablets.

However, paediatricians discourage the use of this medication without prescription because overdosing on ibuprofen can reduce blood flow to the kidneys, damaging the stomach or intestines.

Cough syrups

It’s a common mistake for parents to give their children cough syrup or drops to kids whenever they see the symptoms arise. Which is why it’s part of most baby medicine lists. But doing so without a doctor’s advice and prescription could actually be harmful to them.

According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA),  children under the age of 2 should not be given any kind of cough and cold product that contains a decongestant or antihistamine because serious and possibly life-threatening side effects could occur.

In fact, the FDA called for the removal of these cough and cold products for children below 2 in drugstores and pharmacies and advised parents of children below 4 to avoid giving it to their kids, and parents of children over 4 to practice caution when giving it to their kids.

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl or other brands)

Diphenhyradramine is a drug that is often used to treat allergies, or at least, provide relief to allergy symptoms such as itchiness and rashes.

However, in 2019, the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published a statement saying Benadryl shouldn’t be used at all to treat allergy symptoms because it—and other ‘first-generation’ antihistamines—pose unnecessary risks to your child’s health. 

In fact, Sulowski argues that diphenhydramine can be counterproductive as it makes a kid drowsy, and parents can miss some important symptoms when their child is always asleep.

“One of the main side effects is it makes your child sleepy, and this sedating effect puts kids at increased risk of dehydration because they are too sleepy to drink.

If a child is sleeping for most of the day, it can also mean that parents are missing other symptoms that need treatment. For example, your child might have an infection and be losing consciousness, but you think they are just sleepy from the Benadryl,” he explained.

When it comes to treating your child’s allergies, it’s best to check the degree of the symptoms first and defer to his paediatrician for treatment.

Benadryl is not a cure, it’s just for symptom relief,” said Sulowski. “If your child is still playful and able to function, it’s better not to give medication,” he added.

Image from Shutterstock

Loperamide (Imodium)

It can be challenging when your child has diarrhoea, because he can be fussy and it can lead to dehydration. However, parents should practice caution and consult their child’s paediatrician before giving over the counter medicine for diarrhoea for babies.

According to Healthline, it’s important to get the doctor’s go signal before giving Imodium to kids below 6 years old and should not be used to treat toddlers ages 2 and below. Studies show that misuse of this drug can lead to constipation, and serious heart and breathing problems.


While it’s not a popular drug, you can find it in medications that treat motion sickness, nausea and vomiting.

However, according to Sulowski, it can make children sleepy and can lead to dehydration. Moreover, dimenhydrinate can also lead to mood changes in children such as fussiness, irritability and hallucinations, as well as irregular heartbeats.

Children ages 2 and below should not be given dimenhydrinate. Also, heed the doctor’s advice first before giving your older child this medication.

If your child is vomiting but not severely enough to be hospitalised, the solution is simply to keep them comfortable and hydrated until the infection passes. You can give them ice chips, watered-down juice, breast milk or electrolyte drinks (for babies 6 months and up) to prevent dehydration.

Xylometazoline (nasal drops)

According to Sulowski, nasal drop medications that contain xylometazoline can dry out your child’s nasal passages. So it’s not recommended for baby’s colds.

Instead, you can try saline drop to clear the nasal passages, and other home remedies for colds and stuffy nose like using a nasal aspirator to suction the nose, as well as having a cool-mist humidifier in your baby’s room.

Teething gels with benzocaine

It’s hard to see your little one struggle with teething. So parents include teething gels in the baby medicine list. But experts still advise against the use of teething gels with the chemical benzocaine in them. Benzocaine gives a numbing sensation to your baby’s gums, making teething more manageable.

However, since the medication is applied in the mouth, your baby could swallow the solution, and overconsumption may lead to harmful effects such as seizures or methemoglobinemia.

Where the blood can’t carry oxygen through the body effectively. For this reason, the FDA advises parents not to use benzocaine teething gels on children ages 2 and below.

Gripe water

Many traditional parents swear in the effectiveness of gripe water as a herbal remedy and baby medicine for gas. However, the FDA advises against it as no study has proven that gripe water works for any of its intended purposes and it may contain ingredients that are unsafe for babies.

The Journal of Pharmacology and Pharmacotherapeutics noted that gripe water can put a baby at an increased risk for exposure to harmful things like bacteria and allergens, and can even increase the risk of vomiting and constipation.

As with any other concerns regarding your baby’s health, it’s best to consult his paediatrician first before giving your baby medicine for gas or try natural home remedies. Such as baby tummy massage or letting baby burp.

Parents’ Guide on Giving Medicines

Parents, we cannot stress it enough: do not give any medicine to your child without consulting with his paediatrician first.

Is homoeopathic care safe for babies? 

While it’s a good thing for us parents to be in-charge of our child’s overall health and wellness. There are times when we have to defer to their doctor on what to do, and this includes them being sick.

For instance, Sulowski reminds parents that if their child is younger than three months old and isn’t feeling well. Especially if there are symptoms like fever and dehydration. You need to bring him straight to his doctor or the emergency room.

“There are so many things that could be going on,” he says. “Don’t tough it out at home at this age.”

And until your baby is 3 months old, never give him any medication without talking to his paediatrician first.

When asking your child’s doctor about his medications, don’t forget to update her about your child’s current age and weight. As the dosages of prescription and over-the-counter medications depend on a patient’s weight.

Too little medicine can be ineffective and too much could be harmful. Also, talk to your child’s paediatrician about any allergies with food and medicine.

Here are other things to remember when giving your child medicine: Again, make sure that what you’re giving your child is prescribed by his paediatrician. Make sure that the dosage is correct, and you’re giving it according to the doctor’s instructions (like how many times a day, if you should take it with food, etc). Check the label for proper storage and common side effects and reactions. If your child experiences any negative side effects from the medication. Stop giving it to your child and inform his doctor right away. Check with your child’s paediatrician if you have any questions about the medicine. What happens if your child misses a dose, should he finish taking the medicine as prescribed even after the symptoms stop, etc. While home remedies can be good for supportive care. It should not be taken as a substitute to a doctor’s advice and medications prescribed by your child’s paediatrician.

Image from Freepik

Building a baby medicine list and giving your child medicine is vital in ensuring that your child gets the best care and treatment when he is sick.

And to do this, you need to work hand in hand with the professionals who are trained about children’s health. So if you have any questions about medicines and the proper treatment for your child, don’t hesitate to consult with his paediatrician.


Kids’ Health, WhatToExpect, Healthline

Here at theAsianparent Philippines, it’s important for us to give information that is correct, significant, and timely. But this doesn’t serve as an alternative for medical advise or medical treatment. TheAsianparent Philippines is not responsible to those that would choose to drink medicines based on information from our website. If you have any doubts, we recommend to consult your doctor for clearer information.

This article written by Camille Eusebio was first published on the theAsianparent Philippines and was edited and republished with permission.


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