Are Cough Drops Okay For Toddlers?

cough drops for toddlers
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Your child is feeling poorly and you are wondering what to do. Cough drops seem like a good idea for the little one’s sore throat. They are mostly candy, right?


Depending on the cough drop and on your child’s age, the medicine can be completely safe or it can be dangerous. In this article we will explore when it is okay to give cough drops for sick toddlers and when you will want to instead resort to good old home remedies. Are you ready? Let’s discuss!

Age factors that decide if kids can have cough drops

First things first, 1 or 2 years olds cannot have cough drops!

Again, no cough drops for your 1 or 2 year old(just to drive the point home).

The medicines in these, however slight, are dangerous to your child. Now, at around 3 years old a few things have changed about their body chemistry and certain cough drops may be allowed. So 3, 4, and 5 year olds CAN have cough drops, provided they contain only the following active ingredients for combatting cough and sore throat:

  • Benzocaine – Benzocaine is basically an anesthetic and the small amount of this that is in cough drops is fine. It can numb an irritated throat and provide a little relief, provided that your child is 3 years of age or older.
  • Menthol – That minty wonder known as menthol soothes a throat and is perfectly safe for your child. Essentially composed of mint oils such as standard mint, peppermint, and a numbing agent like eucalyptus leaf oil, menthol is going to be just fine for your child and can provide them a little relief.

These ingredients are typically the active components of the cough drop brands such as Ricola, Cepacol, and Halls, which are good brands for toddlers and adults alike. When you look for these brands, simply check the active ingredients to make sure that they are one or both of the above, and you should be okay. That said, control your child’s dosage. Follow the instructions on the label to play it safe and don’t give the child access to the package. Cough drops (especially the infamous Luden’s cherry cough drops) taste like candy. We have a hard time not snacking on them ourselves so don’t give your child a chance to sate their temptation with them.

Can kids have home remedies instead of cough drops?

ricola for toddlers
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Well, if that home remedy is all-natural and not made up of plant extracts used in current drugs, you should be fine. Generally keeping to simple, but effective home remedies is the way to go. Here are a couple of examples that can help in a pinch:

  • Gramma’s favorite – Honey and lemon juice – This is one that you will hear a lot from senior citizens. They grew up with it and it WORKS. A spoonful of honey mixed with a little lemon juice will coat the throat and get to attacking that bacteria with a little citric acid. This can help to soothe that cough and give your sick child a little energy as well to fight it off due to the natural benefits of the honey. Give it a try the next time that your little one is feeling poorly from a cough and sore throat. Kids love the honey so they’ll cooperate 100% (eh, well, in theory. You know kids. Some wouldn’t eat a Kit Kat if they thought it was a good for them. What can you do?).

                        “The ginger root produces a warm sensation on your throat.”

  • Ginger root tea – Get yourself a ginger root from the store and cut it up into slices. Boil these slices for about 10 to 15 minutes until the water begins to turn golden. At this point, stir in 2 or 3 tablespoons full of delicious honey. You can substitute brown sugar or pure can white sugar but that’s not as good for their little teeth. After boiling, let it sit another 10 to 15 minutes so that the ginger root gets nice and concentrated in the water. After this, feed your child a small cup of the ginger root tea. Have one yourself as well. The ginger root produces a warm sensation on your throat that you can’t fail to notice if it has been steeped enough. Good for colds, sore throat, coughing, and even stomach/abdominal pain from eating bad food, ginger root tea is a great home remedy and it’s easy to make. Give it a try the next time your little angel has a cough, it’s all natural, tasty, and will work as advertised.

Be careful with medications in general

Aside from cough drops, there are a LOT of other medicinal no-nos for your child. No aspirin, for instance. When you are in doubt, ask your pediatrician to be sure. In most cases your pharmacist is also going to have good information as to which medications are safe for children. Often the pharmacy will provide lighter-dose (and often candy coated) versions of medicines for children of various ages. Just let them know how old your child is and they can steer you in the right direction. Also…

can kids have cough drops
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Minimal coughing is normal and can sometimes just be left alone

If your child doesn’t have a persistent cough that sounds like a cat trying to spit out a furball, you might be better off just leaving them be. A minor cough is normal. Kids can get colds and there is little that you can do other than make sure they eat and get plenty of rest and fluids. Anyone who has taken the day off of work to take a kid in to the doctor for a cold has heard this recommendation straight from the doctor. Be patient and your kid will be better in no time.

In conclusion

Can a toddler have cough drops? Yes, if they are 3 or over and you follow our guidelines. Always read the label and when in doubt, ask your pediatrician. It’s as simple as that!

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