Cough Home Remedies For Infant

How to Treat a Baby Cough

  • Stay away from over-the-counter remedies and focus on the post-nasal drip.
  • Use saline nasal sprays can dry up nasal passages, add xylitol to reduce burning and add anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Nasal sucking devices will help remove mucus too.
  • Humidifiers help soothe coughs exacerbated by dry indoor air.
  • Use honey sprinkled with clove and ginger to soothe coughs, but only for children over 12-months old.

Finally, parents can address the cough itself. Ferrer notes that many studies have found that honey often outperforms standard cough syrup in efficacy. But parents should use it with caution. Honey should not be given to babies under 12 months old. It can contain botulinum toxins that can make an infant very sick. For babies over 12 months old, however, a spoonful of honey will do wonders to help suppress a cough. The cough suppressing effects can be helped by sprinkling a tiny amount of ginger and clove powder (if you’ve got it) over the honey. The clove powder, in particular, can help numb nerves in the throat that tickle and lead to coughing.

Natural cough remedies like honey, moist air, and nasal sprays should go a long way toward helping a child feel more comfortable and keeping their coughing to a minimum. But parents should also understand when treating their baby’s cough requires help from a pediatrician.

“If the cough persists beyond one week and it’s associated with fever that persists more than three days, and there is yellowish mucus that’s when they should go to the doctor,” Ferrer explains.

But he also notes that parents shouldn’t expect to come home with antibiotics. The vast amount of baby coughs are linked to viral infections, and antibiotics only work for bacterial infections.

Most of the time, however, Ferrer notes that baby coughs will likely be resolved on their own with a little time and love. Sometimes, no intervention is necessary. “Look to see if the kids are being themselves, with one day or so of cough,” Ferrer says. “As long as the child is active and eating it shouldn’t be a concern. In fact, it’s a good thing and parents shouldn’t restrict their activities.”

Cough Home Remedies For Infant

When little ones struggles to breathe, it’s easy for panic to set in. Some herbal remedies, like this homemade sore throat spray, are great for adults, but not babies. So what home remedies for baby cough and congestion work?

This article covers:

  • Which home remedies for baby cough are NOT safe
  • Which essential oils are safe to diffuse for babies and how to use them
  • The best herbal remedies to help clear baby congestion and cough fast

What do You Give an Infant for a Cough?

The FDA warns against conventional cough medicine for kids and I’m with them on this one. Cough medication can slow breathing and be life-threatening for infants. Some of these drugs contain opiates and most have artificial colors and flavors. Cough syrup for young children is not only unsafe, but ineffective (FDA, 2018).

Artificial colors are linked with behavioral issues, like hyperactivity, and are banned in other countries.  Thankfully there are plenty of safe and effective home remedies for baby cough (Ravella, 2016).

Treat the Person, not the Symptoms

Unlike conventional medications, herbs work with the body to bring about wellness. Plant medicine works best when tailored to the individual, not just matching an herb to a condition. Is baby feverish, fussy, and has a dry cough? Or are they congested with lots of mucus, a wet cough, and no fever? Notice baby’s symptoms and use remedies tailored to their individual needs.

Not sure how much to use and how to dose? I give dosages for the herbal remedies below, but here are full details on how to figure dosing for all ages.

How to Safely Use Home Remedies for Baby Cough

“My experience has been that almost any herb that is safe for an adult is safe for a child as long as the size and weight of the child are accounted for and the dosage is adjusted accordingly. These herbs should be used in small amounts for short periods of time only , and in conjunction or formulated with milder herbs” – Rosemary Gladstar

When it comes to herb use for adults and babies, there are some major differences. Little ones need gentler options and certain preparations (like swallowing pills) are a no-go. It also doesn’t help to have a list of baby safe herbs if you don’t know how to use them.

Here’s how to use natural remedies for babies.

#1 – Dissolve homeopathic tablets in water and give the liquid to baby in a syringe.

#2 – Make a strong herbal infusion for baby’s bath water. Their skin absorbs the herbal properties and they breathe in the aromatic components. (Read on for some herbal bath recipes!)

#3 – Use a salve on baby’s chest or the bottoms of their feet. Some essential oils and herbs are too strong for a baby’s respiratory system when rubbed on their chest. When applied to the feet, young babies can still benefit from inhaling the salve, but it isn’t too close to their nose (Nuala, 2016).

#4  – Give herbal tea or syrup in a syringe. Infant syringes come with over the counter medications and infant supplements.

#5 – Breastfeeding mamas can take the herb and then nurse baby. Some herbal properties are excreted in breastmilk, but there’s more going on here. Studies have shown antibodies in breastmilk protect against infections and respiratory diseases (Jackson & Nazar, 2006).

How to naturally relieve baby cough and congestion - The Herbal Spoon

What Causes Baby Congestion?

With tiny noses and respiratory systems, it’s easy for baby nasal congestion to set in. According to Mayo Clinic, baby congestion happens when nasal tissue becomes inflamed, or there’s too much mucus. When the respiratory system has mucus, our body tries to cough it up.

Instead of suppressing the body’s effort to get germs out, these remedies support it and promote clear breathing.

Home Remedies for Baby Cough

These time tested home remedies for baby cough and baby congestion help little ones breathe easy.

Nasal Wash

I’ve never seen a baby use a neti pot, but saline spray is the next best thing. Nasal washes help soften thick mucus and relieve baby congestion. Babies aren’t so great at blowing their nose either, but a nasal aspirator will take care of that.

  •  The Nose-Frida looks intimidating, but there’s a filter so you’re not actually sucking baby snot into your mouth.
  • Xlear nasal spray contains the natural antibiotic xylitol.
  • Genexa saline is formulated for babies, organic, and free of unnatural additives found in many saline sprays.

Moisture to Help a Congested Baby Sleep

A humidifier adds moisture to the air to help baby breathe at night. Be sure to clean humidifiers often or they can grow mold! A water based diffuser will add moisture to the air like a humidifier, but with the added benefit of essential oils. Be careful though: some essential oils, like eucalyptus and peppermint, are too harsh for babies (Dessinger, 2016).

Baby Safe Diffusing

Choose a kid safe blend, like this one, when diffusing around little ones. I use 2 drops and diffuse for a few hours at the most, not all night long, and not right next to baby’s face. You may want to save diffusing for the daytime to monitor for any reactions.

Here’s a list of baby safe essential oils to diffuse.

Baby safe essential oils for respiratory support

Baby safe essential oils for immune support

Baby safe essential oils to calm

Baby safe essential oils to uplift the mood

Thyme Salve to Get Mucus Out of Baby’s Chest

Thyme is one of my favorite herbs to clear baby chest congestion. This herb is an expectorant to loosen and expel mucus, antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral. I use thyme essential oil for adults, but it’s too harsh for babies. Here are directions for how to make a salve, just substitute thyme for lavender in the recipe (Demotses, 2014).

To use the salve rub on baby’s chest or back. The regular thyme sold in the spice section at a grocery store is very expensive per ounce and isn’t medicinal quality. I get my thyme herb here and here. Thyme is ideal for wet, mucusy coughs, especially deep in the chest.

How to naturally relieve baby cough and congestion - The Herbal Spoon
Photo credit Jon Pinder

Onion Poultice

Onion doesn’t smell the best, but it’s a flu fighting powerhouse. The antimicrobial properties have been used for thousands of years to fight infection both internally and externally. Onions are also an expectorant to break up chest congestion and soothe baby cough. Your little one may smell like Italian food, but they’ll breathe better (WHO, 1999) (Libster, 2001).

How to make an onion poultice

  1. Chop up half an onion, add some water and simmer just until the onions are warm and soft.
  2. Wrap the warm (not hot!) onions in a tea towel or cheesecloth and use a rubber band to secure the top.
  3. Lay the poultice on the chest or upper back. Cover the poultice with a warm blanket, hot water bottle, or heating pad. Make sure it’s warm but not hot!
  4. Leave the onion poultice on for 20- 30 minutes and repeat every few hours as needed. This is a good time to wrap baby in a warm blanket and have some cuddles!

Herbs to Relieve Baby Cough

These herbs are safe for little ones, helps ease discomfort, and speed recovery.


The elder plant produces antiviral berries and flowers that are an effective flu remedy. Elderflower tea helps with respiratory infections and fevers. The tea encourages sweating (diaphoretic) and relaxes bodily tension to release heat.

Elder also helps expel phlegm from the lungs so it’s good to use when there’s both fever and congestion. Elderflower tea has to be used while it’s still warm or it loses its diaphoretic properties. For added immune support, throw some echinacea in the mix (McDonald, nd).


Echinacea is one of the most popular herbs for cold and flu season. This herb increases pathogen battling white blood cells in the body and stimulates the lymphatic system to help clear infection. While it’s great for overall immune support, echinacea doesn’t target breathing issues like coughing, congestion, or a runny nose.

Echinacea is most effective at the beginning of illness, not  for prevention. You can give this herb every hour at the first sign of sickness to jump-start the immune system. (McDonald, nd) (Gladstar, 2015).

How to naturally relieve baby cough and congestion - The Herbal Spoon
Photo credit H is for Home

Elder and Echinacea Tea

This blend helps bolster the immune system and is useful when there’s both congestion and fever. The combination helps knock out respiratory infections as a helpful home remedy for baby cough.

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a heat-safe mug or jar, like a mason jar. Cover and let steep for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Strain the herbs and allow to cool to a warm temperature before giving to baby.


  • Babies 2-6 months old can take ½ Tablespoon 3-4 times daily
  • Babies 6-12 months old can take 1 Tablespoon 3-4 times daily


This expectorant herb is useful for coughs and lung infections. Elecampane root is antimicrobial, expels congestion, soothes irritation from coughing, and encourages sweat to expel toxins. This herb doesn’t taste good on its own, but when combined with licorice, echinacea, and/or marshmallow root it makes for a tastier and more effective remedy (Gladstar, 2015). According to the Herbal Academy:

“Elecampane is indicated for damp, cold, congested, stuck conditions due to its stimulating, expectorant effect.”

Licorice Root for Throat Support

Because of its sweet taste and gentle nature, licorice is nicknamed the children’s herb. It’s the one I reach for whenever I have a sore throat. My kiddos can be picky about taking herbs, but licorice in the blend sweet talks them into it.

Licorice is antiviral, antibacterial, soothes coughing spasms, helps expel mucus, and soothes sore throats. The licorice root modulates the immune system and is a synergist to boosts the effects of other herbs in a formula. This herb is ideal for respiratory infections and dry, spastic coughs. (Winston & Maimes, 2007).

Elecampane congestion and cough tea

  1. Combine the herbs and water in a pot and heat until boiling, then reduce to a simmer.
  2. Simmer the herbs for 20-30 minutes with the lid on, then strain into a measuring cup.
  3. Add more water if needed to get exactly 1 cup of tea.


  • Babies 2-6 months old can take ½ Tablespoon 3-4 times daily
  • Babies 6-12 months old can take 1 Tablespoon 3-4 times daily

Baby Coughing at Night

Coughing is often worse at night when baby is lying down. Here are some tips to help baby (and you!) catch some Z’s.

  • Congested baby Sleep Position: Elevate the head of the crib mattress with a pillow or mattress wedge UNDER the mattress. A pillow in the crib with baby increases the risk of suffocation.
  • Use a humidifier or safely diffuse while baby sleeps.
  • Use a wild cherry herbal cough syrup (not the artificially colored chemical concoction in the drug aisle!) to ease nighttime coughing.
How to naturally relieve baby cough and congestion - The Herbal Spoon

Herb Baths: A Home Remedy for Baby Cough

Warm steam from a bath or shower helps soften mucus and improve breathing. Warm water is great on its own, but the right herbs take it to the next level.

Here are some of the best herbs to use in the bath when baby is coughing and congested.

  • Thyme – Antiviral, antibacterial, expels chest congestion.
  • Rose hips and Hibiscus – Both are high in vitamin C for a healthy immune system.
  • Elecampane – Antimicrobial, helps expel congestion, soothes irritation from coughing, and encourages sweating to expel toxins.
  • Echinacea – Assists the immune system to fight infection.
  • Licorice – An expectorant , anti-bacterial, anti-viral, antispasmodic, and helps other herbs work better.
  • Bee balm – Antiviral, antibacterial and encourages sweating. Useful when there’s a fever, yet the person feels cold and clammy. Helps with coughing, sore throat, and baby chest congestion.
  • Catnip – Helps calm and reduces a fever.

How to Make Bath Tea

Mix and match the herbs to get what your little one needs. I use about 3 Tablespoons of herbs total. Whole flowers like chamomile and bee balm are bulkier, so I’ll use closer to 1/3 of a cup total if these are in the mix.

Add strong herbal infusions to baby’s bath tub. If your little one uses a full sized tub, then double the amount of herb used. I prefer not to add the herbs directly to the bathwater, unless cleaning a thousand tiny plant pieces out of the tub is your thing.

Roots like elecampane and licorice should be decocted for 20 minutes, but the other herbs can be steeped for 10 minutes.

Here are some herbal bath tea recipes for baby cough and congestion support.

Calm a Fussy Baby

A fever means the body is working hard to kill pathogens and is usually a good thing. Sweating it out is often the best option, but sometimes the body needs a rest. Catnip calms and lowers a fever when baby is fussy and uncomfortable.

Bring water to a boil, steep the herbs for 10 minutes, then strain.

Soothe Baby Coughing

Fight germs, support the immune system, and cough the gunk up with this bath tea blend.

Add the licorice, elecampane and water to a pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off, add the rosehips and steep covered for 10 minutes.

Herbal Bath for Congested Baby

This blend of herbs fights germs, expels mucus, helps the body sweat out toxins, and supports the immune system.

Bring water to a boil, steep the herbs for 10 minutes, then strain.

Boost the Immune system

Echinacea supports the immune system while the rose hips and hibiscus add a boost of vitamin C.

Bring water to a boil, steep the herbs for 10 minutes, then strain.

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