A cough is one of the most common symptoms for which patients seek medical attention.1

Cough medications or syrups can be found over-the-counter (OTC). The products found in OTC contain scheduled ingredients such as bronchodilator and mucolytic to help relieve a wet cough or a cough suppressant plus a nasal decongestant to relieve a dry cough with congestion.2,3

Because OTC products contain scheduled ingredients, it is important to dose correctly to obtain the right dosage for the person’s weight, achieve the best results and avoid overdosing.4-6

7 helpful tips to make sure you take cough medication correctly and safely

  1. Do not combine cough and cold medicines together unless your healthcare provider says it is okay. Different cold medicines may contain the same ingredient. When you take more than one type of medicine, you may take too much of the same ingredient e.g. taking a nasal decongestant tablet and a cough / nasal decongestant combination.5
  2. Use the medications exactly as directed by your healthcare provider, including at the right times and for the full length of your prescribed treatment. NOTE: If a product says twice/three/four times daily this means 24 hour day, not a waking day.7
  3. Follow the label instructions carefully. Some medications need to be taken with food; others should be taken on an empty stomach.7
  4. Try to take your medications at the same time every day. Don’t panic if you miss a dose of your medication. Take it as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and return to your regular medication schedule. Do not take two doses to make up for the dose you missed. 7
  5. Scheduled medicine shouldn’t be used by anyone except the person who it has been dispensed for.

Take special care with children 4

If you give cough and cold medicines to children, follow the label directions EXACTLY

  • Follow dosing instructions for your child’s age and weight
  • Measure doses with the correct measuring cup, spoon, or syringe. Do not use ordinary household spoons and cups
  • If you plan to use more than one medicine, compare labels carefully. Speak to your pharmacist or healthcare professional about the other medications so that they can review and assess to make sure that the two medications do not pose any drug-drug interactions
  • After you administer each dose, replace the child-resistant closure. Lock the medicine up high, where children can’t see it or reach it



DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional

Name and business address of the holder of the certificate of registration: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Ltd,. Co. Reg. No. 1952/001640/07, 15e Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For further information, speak to your healthcare professional. Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN3119/19


  1. De Blasio F, Virchow JC, Polverino M, et al. Cough management: a practical approach. Cough 2011;7(1):7.
  2. Data on file.
  3. Data on file.
  4. Poison Control. National Capital Poison Center. Cough and Cold Medicine Safety. Not for Children Under Two. [online] [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.poison.org/articles/2008-mar/cough-and-cold-medicine-safety
  5. Drug Dosage. [online] [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.drugs.com/dosage/
  6. Safe Use of Cough and Cold Medicine. [online] December 2018 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://www.drugs.com/cg/safe-use-of-cough-and-cold-medicines.html
  7. Cleveland Clinic. Taking Medications: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe. [online] October 2018 [cited February 2019]; Available from URL: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/4940-taking-medications-what-you-need-to-know-to-stay-safe?view=print