What age can children buy over-the-counter (OTC) medicines?

There are no legal age restrictions for buying over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.

What are OTC medicines?

OTC medicines can be bought from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets without the supervision of a pharmacist and without a prescription.

OTC medicines include those used to treat minor illnesses that you may feel aren't serious enough to see your GP or pharmacist about.

For example:

Read more about medicines and the law on the sale of medicines.

Is there any guidance?

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society doesn't have any specific rules about a suitable age for buying OTC medicines.

Similarly, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which makes sure medicines and medical devices work and are safe, hasn't issued any guidance.

However, some retail outlets have specific company policies that restrict the sale of OTC medicines to children.

Are OTC medicines suitable for children?

Always read the information leaflet inside the packaging to check whether an OTC medicine is suitable for children.

Some OTC medicines shouldn't be given to children – for example, children under 16 shouldn't take aspirin.

You should always check the dosage instructions for children as they may be different from those for adults.

There may be some situations where a retail outlet can't sell an OTC medicine to a child for their use because the medicine isn't licensed for children of that age.

For example, some antacid medicines, which relieve heartburn, are only recommended for children who are aged 12 and over.

Read the answers to more questions about medicines.

Further information:

Page last reviewed: 22/12/2016

Next review due: 22/12/2019