Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

Cough and cold remedies for the treatment of acute respiratory infections in young children

World Health Organization

Publication details

Number of pages: 39
Publication date: 2001
Languages: English
WHO reference number: WHO/FCH/CAH/01.02



Respiratory tract infections are among the most important human health problems because of their high incidence and consequent economic costs. The number of ARI episodes per child per year is similar in both developed and developing countries. The majority of respiratory infections are confined to the upper respiratory tract and most of these are simple coughs or colds. Drug therapy for viral common colds produces few measurable benefits.

This document reviews the efficacy and safety of cough and cold medicines in young children (under 5 years of age) with an acute respiratory infection. A systematic literature review was carried out to identify appropriate randomized controlled trials (RCTs). This document does not discuss antibiotic treatment, which has no role in the management of children with the common cold because antibiotics do not shorten the duration of the illness and do not prevent complications or the development of pneumonia.