Children’s cold & flu medicine in New Zealand

Colds and flu can be inconvenient and distressing during winter and other times of the year. So, when cold and flu strikes your family, it is important to know how to help relieve your child’s symptoms.

Pain relief medication

If your child is feeling distressed and uncomfortable due to pain associated with a cold or flu, there are a few options available to choose from. Pain relief medication, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, may provide temporary relief of common symptoms of cold and flu, such as headache and body aches or pain. Ibuprofen, such as Nurofen for Children, is an anti-inflammatory that can also help reduce fever in children.

Supplements and other natural remedies

It is unclear whether zinc or vitamin C supplements can help to shorten the duration of a cold in children. However, zinc supplementation may help to maintain a healthy immune system, which helps the body stay as resilient as it can against colds and flu.

In any case, discuss what supplements and other home remedies may be suitable for your child with your doctor or pharmacist first. 

 Vaccination (the act of vaccinating)

Vaccinations help prepare the body to fight diseases that otherwise may make you very ill, be hospitalised or may even cause death. Vaccination can help to prevent you and your children from getting seriously ill.

Speak to your doctor about the vaccinations they recommend for you and your family.

Things to avoid when your child has a cold or flu


Antibiotics are used for treating bacterial infections. However, antibiotics are ineffective against the viruses that cause colds and flu.

During a cold, mucus often starts clear and changes colour to green or yellow within a few days. For some infections, the mucus may be thick or yellow; however the colour of mucus does not tell you if the infection is bacterial or viral. Speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about your child’s mucus.

Taking antibiotics when we don't need them may make them less effective in the long run because there’s a chance that bacteria may become resistant to the antibiotic.

Cold and flu medicine

Children's cold and flu medicine in New Zealand can include decongestant tablets and nasal sprays. However, many of these products are not recommended for use in children under six years of age so always check the label and read it carefully.

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

Cough medicine

An irritated windpipe or excess mucus could be the cause of cough when your child has a cold. Although it may be unpleasant to listen to, coughing has an important purpose: it clears mucus from your child's airway.

You can offer your child frequent drinks of water to help keep their mucus runny and easier to cough up.

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


Breathing in the steam from a bowl of hot water is a traditional treatment for colds and is believed to help unblock nasal passages. However, it's too easy for children to be burnt or scalded, so this should be avoided in children.

Instead, to help ease their symptoms you could try the following:

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

Resting, drinking lots of water and, if needed, choosing effective medicine (such as those that relieve associated symptoms of pain or fever) are appropriate relief options for your little child when they have colds and flu.

If your child is suffering cold and flu symptoms, current NZ guidance is to stay home and call Healthline (0800 358 5453) for advice.

Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Do not use if you have a stomach ulcer. Do not use if your baby or child has a stomach ulcer. Do not give to babies under 3 months of age. Seek medical advice for children under 12 months of age. Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland. RB-M-99239. TAPS-NP18146.