Congested nose and ongoing cough in young children can be extremely disruptive to their eating routine, sleeping habits and activities.
There are a lot of over-the-counter cough and cold syrups, and they are usually a combination of several medications such as antitussives, expectorants, antihistamines, decongestants and anti-fever components.
However, most studies to date were unable to show any effectiveness of most of those products, especially in the young age group, under 6 years old. A review paper summarizing 8 research studies with over 600 children (meta-analysis) found no evidence for or against the use of over-the-counter medicines in both children and adults. The syrups did not change the frequency and severity of cough, mucus production and physician assessment.
The concern with cough and cold syrups is that they actually can cause harm to some children. One US Injury monitoring program reported that cough and cold preparations were responsible for 6% of all emergency room visits related to medication use during 2004 and 2005 in children under 12 years old. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported over 1500 children under the age of 2 were treated in American emergency rooms in 2005 alone for problems related to cough and cold syrups.
The concerns amounted and in 2008 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US released a statement regarding the use of cough and cold medications in children. They advised against the use of all syrup formulations in children under 6 years of age with caution being exercised when these formulations are used in children older than six.