Australian parents are spending millions of dollars a year on cough and cold medicines that could harm young children.

The latest Australian Child Health Poll has found Australians are spending an estimated $67 million annually on cough and cold medicines for children aged under 15-years.

A third of children aged under six-years receive over-the-counter cough and cold medicines, a product group that the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warns could harm children of this age.

Director of the poll, paediatrician Dr Anthea Rhodes said: “We all struggle to cope with our kids’ coughs and colds over winter, but for young children these medicines are known to be ineffective, and in some cases potentially harmful.

“What’s particularly disturbing is that among parents who are giving these products to their young children, 74 per cent do so on the advice of a pharmacist, and 64 per cent on the advice of a doctor.”

The poll reveals that cough and cold formulas are not the only non-prescribed treatment being used to treat children across Australia despite a lack of supporting evidence.

“We were surprised to learn that, nationally, we’re spending an estimated $74 million a year on vitamins and supplements for children aged less than 15-years.

“About half of all children and teenagers are receiving these supplements, even though there are no proven health benefits where diet is normal and there is no established nutritional deficiency.

“For example, among this group, three out of four parents are giving their children vitamins to boost their immune system even though there is no clear evidence that these products can have that effect.”

Other key findings from the fourth Australian Child Health Poll include:
•82 per cent of children have received an over-the-counter medicine in the past 12 months and 65 per cent have received more than one type of medicine
•A substantial proportion of parents give their children paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat cough (27 per cent) or induce sleep (10 per cent), for which there is no evidence of effectiveness
•One in seven parents use over-the-counter medicines to aid sleep or relax their children for travel, such as on flights or car trips.

panadol usage

Are you surprised?

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Image via RCH Melb

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  • Paracetamol is known to help to relieve extremely high temperatures and bad headaches. ….Some diseases (some are hereditary) lower your immune system no matter what precautions you take. Some deplete the vitamins, minerals from you and have to be supplemented in the hope of you absorbing enough. e.g. people with Coelic Disease have difficulty keeping the iron levels high enough and have to have iron infusions to boost their levels. They are also prone to osteoporosis because some also can’t tolerate dairy products….some also can’t tolerate some of the dairy substitutes….or enough food containing Vitamin D to absorb the calcium.


  • Rarely gave my children anything for a cold and they rarely got them either.


  • I was shocked at the medicines at local chemist rows and rows of cough stuff, tablets, liquid different flavours absolutely horrified at the amount of products, have people looked at why they pick up these viruses/germs if your diet is good and immune system is strong you should not take drugs/medications as a temporary fix it. My family 2/3 generations of them do not get viruses/bacterial infections none of us have the annual flu shots, very few of us use chemicals in any form – make up, sprays, deodorants, perfumes. Eat well, exercise and get out in the open air


  • I rarely use pain meds and never OTC cough mixtures. There are other ways of dealing with these things that are safer for my children. Any pain meds are because someone with medical background has asked me to do so. These things work for me and I have nothing against those that use them. There is to many people telling us what is safe and not safe for our children, so some common sense is needed.


  • i only ever give my kids panadol if they have a high fever. never give them cough medicines, i was raised taught that it doesnt work anyway and its a scam.


  • My GP and local pharmacist are great – they steer away from excessive use of antibiotics and advise to use paracetamol sparingly.


  • It makes being a parent very hard when you try to do the right thing and turns out you are all wrong. We place our trust in Dr’s and people at the chemist to know what is right for our child.


  • Even paracetamol which was always considered safe is now a concern, so it’s very difficult for parents to know what to do.


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