Cough Drops For Baby

Fortunately, you can easily treat coughs and colds in young children without these OTC medicines. Good home remedies are safe, inexpensive and as beneficial as OTC medicines. They are also found in nearly every home. See below to learn how you can treat your child’s symptoms with simple but effective home remedies instead of medicines.

For a runny nose, just suction or blow it. When your child’s nose runs, it’s getting rid of viruses. Antihistamines (such as Benadryl®) do not help the average cold. However, they are useful and approved if the runny nose is due to nasal allergies (hay fever).

If your child has a blocked nose, use nasal washes according to the following instructions:

  • Use saline nose sprays or drops to loosen the dried mucus, followed by blowing or suctioning the nose. If these items are not available, warm water will work fine.
  • Place 2 or 3 drops in each nostril, one side at a time, and then suction or blow. Repeat nasal washes until the return is clear.
  • Use nasal washes whenever your child can’t breathe through their nose. For infants who are bottle- or breast-feeding, use nose drops before feedings.
  • Saline nose drops and sprays are available in all pharmacies without a prescription. To make your own, add 1/2 teaspoon of table salt to 1 cup of warm tap water.
  • For sticky, stubborn mucus, remove with a wet cotton swab.
  • No medicine can remove dried mucus or pus from the nose.

For children who are coughing, use homemade cough medicines.

  • For children 3 months to 1 year of age, give warm, clear fluids (such as water or apple juice). Give 1 to 3 teaspoons four times per day when coughing. Avoid honey because it can cause infantile botulism. If a baby is younger than 3 months, see your child’s doctor.
  • Children 1 year and older can use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of honey or corn syrup as needed. Honey will help thin the secretions and loosen the cough. Research has shown honey is better than drugstore cough syrups at reducing the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing.
  • For kids 6 years and older, use cough drops to coat the irritated throat. You can also use hard candy if cough drops aren’t available.

Help your child drink plenty of fluids. Staying well hydrated thins the body’s secretions, making it easier to cough and blow the nose.

If the air in your home is dry, use a humidifier. Moist air keeps nasal mucus from drying up and lubricates the airway. Make sure you know what kind of humidifier you have and how to use it safely.

As with many health questions, the quick answer is: it depends. There are a few things to consider when discussing cough drop use in children, which we’ll detail later in this article. But in general, use of cough medication isn’t recommended for young children.

The FDA doesn’t recommend over-the-counter (OTC) cough and cold medications in children under 2 years old. Additionally, the Consumer Health Products Association (CHPA) states that these medications shouldn’t be given to children younger than 4. Because of these recommendations, most cold medicine manufacturers include a warning on their labels not to use their products in children under 4.

What do I do if my toddler swallows a cough drop or throat lozenge?

The first and most important thing to do if your child swallows a cough drop whole is to make sure they have no problems breathing. Having a clear airway is the first priority. If at any point your child has trouble breathing, dial 911 immediately.

Once you’ve determined your child isn’t choking, the next step is to see what kind of cough drop they swallowed. Cough drops have various ingredients that can affect a child differently. Common cough drop ingredients include:

  • Pectin
  • Menthol
  • Dextromethorphan
  • Benzocaine

Knowing the type of cough drop swallowed is important, so you can give your healthcare provider or emergency services this information.

Check the package label for ingredient information. If you can’t find the package, look for a wrapper. Sometimes the name of the cough drop will give a healthcare provider a clue to the ingredients.

It’s also important to know how many cough drops were swallowed. If they’re old enough, they may be able to remember how many they ate. Counting nearby wrappers is another option.

What can happen if my child eats cough drops containing pectin?

Pectin is found in many different fruits such as apples and oranges. It’s also a common cooking substance used to make jams and jellies.

Pectin is used in cough drops to coat the throat’s lining and lower irritation. Side effects are rare with pectin cough drops. The risk of harm due to eating too many pectin cough drops is low — unless a child has a pectin allergy.

What can happen if my child eats cough drops containing menthol?

Menthol is another common ingredient in cough drops. It works by mildly numbing the throat. The FDA considers menthol safe for OTC use and reports of overdose are rare.

One case study states a fatal dose of menthol to be around 1 g per kilogram of body weight. That means a child weighing 36 pounds would need to ingest about 16 grams of menthol. The average cough drop contains around 3 mg to 10 mg of menthol. That means a child this weight would need to eat over 1,600 cough drops in a short amount of time before reaching a lethal dose.

Ingesting too much menthol can cause a fast heart rate, dizziness, and breathing changes. But it’s more likely that a child will simply end up with a bellyache from eating too many menthol cough drops.

What can happen if my child eats cough drops containing dextromethorphan?

Dextromethorphan is one of the most common OTC cough medications. Most people think of it as a cough syrup ingredient. But it comes in a variety of forms, including cough drops.

A 2017 review of children under 12 found over 1,700 cases where dextromethorphan potentially caused at least one adverse event. Most children experienced balance problems or a high heart rate. No deaths occurred.

The amount of dextromethorphan it takes to cause serious side effects, like a coma, is quite large (six times the maximum daily dose). And the amount found in cough drops is quite small.

More typical side effects of dextromethorphan include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fast heart rate

What can happen if my child eats cough drops containing benzocaine?

Benzocaine is used to numb the throat to provide relief from coughing and sore throat. It can be the lone ingredient in cough drops or combined with others, such as menthol.

The toxic level for benzocaine is between 22 mg and 40 mg per kilogram of body weight. A cough drop may contain between 7.5 mg to 15 mg of benzocaine. If we take the same 36-pound child from the earlier example, they’d need to eat about 24 benzocaine-containing cough drops to reach this threshold.

Possible side effects of benzocaine include dizziness, drowsiness, and low blood pressure. More serious side effects include convulsions and cardiac arrest.

One life-threatening side effect of benzocaine that small children are more prone to is methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a rare blood condition that prevents oxygen from traveling through the bloodstream properly. Symptoms include trouble breathing and cyanosis — a bluish color around the lips, fingertips, and toes. Because of this, the FDA recommends avoiding benzocaine products in children under 2 years old.

What is the best medicine to treat a cough for children?

Coughs can be caused by a wide variety of conditions. Common causes include colds, the flu, and allergies. Before treating a cough, it’s important to understand what’s causing it. If your child’s cough continues for more than a few days, contact their healthcare provider for further instruction.

That being said, let’s look at some of the best ways to treat coughs based on a child’s age. Children over age 12 typically follow the adult dosing for most OTC cough medications. But always double check with your pharmacist or healthcare provider if you’re unsure what to give them.

Children under 4

As mentioned earlier, the FDA and the CHPA don’t recommend OTC cough medications in children under the age of 4. It’s best to contact the child’s healthcare provider for next steps before giving any cough medications.

Children ages 4 to 6

In children ages 4 to 6, some OTC cough medications can be used. But liquid forms may be preferred over cough drops. This helps to lower the choking risk.

Dextromethorphan, as a liquid cough syrup, may be a good option in this age group. Just follow the package instructions carefully. And use an appropriate medication cup or spoon when measuring the medication.

Children ages 6 to 12

For children ages 6 to 12, cough drops would be suitable to treat cough. Cough drops containing pectin or menthol may be preferred due to fewer side effects. But a liquid cough medicine may provide longer relief than cough drops.

Saline Drops For Baby Cough

In short, saltwater draws moisture out of tissues either to reduce swelling in people with nasal congestion or to increase moisture in people with dry nasal passages. It also helps soften and dissolve crusty mucus plugs so you can remove them.

Most commercial saline drops contain 0.65% sodium chloride (salt).

In infants and babies, saline nasal drops can be used to treat nasal congestion caused by:1

 How to Safety Treat Coughing in Babies

How to Apply Nasal Saline Drops

First, make sure you have the right tools. You will need sterile saline nose drops and a clean bulb syringe. A bulb syringe is a soft rubber or silicone ball with a narrow cone-shaped tip that can suction mucus from a baby’s mouth or nose.

Saline nasal drops and bulb syringes are both relatively inexpensive and readily available online or at most drugstores and pharmacies.

To safely apply nasal drops:

  1. Hold your baby in your lap. The baby should be in an upright or slightly reclined position. Rest the back of the baby’s head on your arm.
  2. Put 2 or 3 saline drops in one nostril.
  3. Wait a few seconds. This will allow the saline to go into the nose.
  4. Point the bulb syringe away from your baby. Squeeze the bulb end to expel the air.
  5. Keep the bulb squeezed and place the small tip in the nostril you put the drops in.
  6. Gently release the bulb. This will create suction that removes mucus and extra saline from your baby’s nose.
  7. Squeeze the bulb syringe into the sink or a cup to expel its contents.
  8. Wait a few minutes. This will give your baby time to calm down if the process was upsetting.
  9. Repeat steps 2 through 7 in the other nostril.

Do Not Overdo It

It’s best to limit suctioning to no more than two times per day. Anything more than this can irritate the nasal passages and cause swelling.

Possible Side Effects

Though saline drops do not contain any medications, they can cause side effects, particularly if overused. The side effects, if any, tend to be mild.

Possible sides effects of saline nasal drops include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Nasal dryness if overused
  • Eye irritation if any gets into the eye
  • Stinging if nasal passages are cracked and dry

Handy Tips for Using Nasal Drops in Babies

You can feel understandably anxious about giving nasal drops if your child is fussy or in distress. These tips can help make the process go a bit more smoothly:

  • If your baby is upset or squirming, have another adult help you. A second person can help keep the baby’s head and hands still.
  • Use saline drops before the baby feeds or goes to sleep.
  • Use a warm washcloth or cotton swab to clean the nostrils.
  • Only expel the air in the syringe bulb when it is not in your baby’s nose.

Bulb syringes can be difficult to clean and may harbor bacteria.3 Be sure to syringe after each use, using soap and water.

 Best Ways to Treat a Newborn’s Cold

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Sometimes, nasal congestion in infants and babies is just the tip of the iceberg. It is important to see a healthcare provider immediately if your baby experiences any of the following:

  • Trouble breathing despite the clearing of the nostrils
  • Wheezing
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Sudden drooling
  • Fever over 104 F
  • Fever for any child less than 12 weeks old

Signs of a Medical Emergency

Call 911 or rush to the nearest emergency room if your baby experiences any of the following:


Saline drops can help babies and infants breathe when they are congested. It is important to know the correct way to use saline drops on your baby. The process involves putting the drops in the nose and using a clean bulb syringe to remove the mucus and excess saline.

It may be helpful to get the assistance of another adult. Be sure to clean the syringe after every use. Seek medical attention if your baby is having trouble breathing or has a high fever.

It is always best to consult your child’s pediatrician before using any type of nasal drop, even saline drops. This is especially true if nasal congestion is accompanied by fever, coughing, or fatigue.

If the congestion does not clear after using saline drops, call a pediatrician before using any other form of medication. Adult medications should never be used in infants or babies without the approval of a certified pediatrician or pharmacist.

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