Five Things You Should Avoid Giving Your Kids When They're Fighting a Cold or Flu

When your littlie is under the weather with a cold or flu, you want to see them get better as soon as possible. But there are a lot of popular treatments that either don't work or are downright dangerous. Here's what to steer clear of.

1. Antibiotics

Antibiotics are modern miracles for treating bacterial infections. However, viruses – not bacteria – cause colds and the flu, so antibiotics won't help your child get better or stop them from getting worse.

Very occasionally, a bacterial infection develops in the mucus produced by a cold, but thicker, yellow mucus is just a sign that the cold is running its natural course. Only one in 200 people who catch a cold will need antibiotics to treat a subsequent bacterial infection.

Taking antibiotics when we don't need them makes them less effective in the long run because the bacteria become resistant to the antibiotic.

2. Cold medicine

Most cold medications are inappropriate for children under six years of age, including decongestant tablets and nasal sprays. They can cause serious side effects.

If your child is older than six, talk to your pharmacist or doctor before giving them cold medicines.

3. Cough medicine

An irritated windpipe or excess mucus is the culprit behind a cough, and cough medicine won't help with either of these. Although it's unpleasant to listen to, coughing has an important purpose: it clears mucus from your child's airway and stops them from getting another infection.

Instead of cough medicine, offer them frequent drinks of water to keep their mucus runny and easy to cough up.

4. Aspirin

It's dangerous to give children aspirin. It can cause a serious illness, called Reye syndrome, which damages the liver and brain. Instead, to relieve the headaches, muscle aches, sore throats and fever caused by colds and flu, use an analgesic suitable for kids, such as Nurofen for Children*.

5. Steam

Breathing in the steam from a bowl of hot water is a traditional treatment for colds, but experts no longer recommend it for children – it's too easy for them to be burnt or scalded. Burns and scalds are serious injuries, causing more than 2000 children to be hospitalised every year.

Instead, to help keep their sinuses clear:

  • Offer plenty of fluids.
  • Use a humidifier (change the water daily).
  • Sit them in a steamy bathroom (under supervision).
  • Use a saltwater nasal spray or drops from the chemist. 

Resting, drinking lots of water and diluted juice, and choosing medications that have been proven to work (such as analgesics) are the best treatments for your littlie when they have a cold or flu.

Colds and flu are inconvenient and distressing aspects of winter, especially for parents. Making sure you give your child only treatments that will help them is the fastest way to help everyone in your family feel happy and healthy again. Now that you've read up on what to avoid, check out our five tips on what you should do when your child is ill.

*Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. Consult your healthcare professional if symptoms persist. Do not give to babies under 3 months. Seek medical advice for children less than 1 year.



This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional.