Cough Remedies For Baby at Night

Cough can be classified based on their character, which is the nature of air’s movement during the cough (3).

  1. Barking cough: It can be due to swelling and inflammation in the upper airway, usually the larynx and trachea, due to the parainfluenza virus that interferes with taking the breath in. Inspiration. It may start suddenly during the night. You may hear stridor, which is a loud noise from harsh breathing while inhaling air. It is caused by croup (4).
  1. Whooping cough: It is a type of continuous cough without gaps to breathe in between coughing. The whooping sound is heard when the baby takes a deep breath at the end of the coughing episode. It is caused by pertussis infection by bacterium Bordetella pertussis and is common in unvaccinated babies under the age of one year (5).
  1. Staccato cough: The baby breathes in between each cough. It is a characteristic symptom of chlamydial pneumonia in babies (6).

Symptoms Associated With Baby Cough

Coughing by itself can be a symptom of respiratory tract infection or a simple reflex to an irritant such as smoke. The following symptoms could also occur along with cough in babies (3):

  • Cough with wheezing: Wheezing is a whistling sound that occurs while breathing out(expiration). The whistling sound can be heard from a distance. The child becomes breathless. It can be due to lower airway tract infections such as asthma or bronchiolitis or due to foreign bodies such as food or small toys.
  • Cough with a fever: Your baby may get a mild or high grade fever depending upon the severity of infection, whether mild flu or pneumonia. Body temperature more than 102°F (39°C) can be due to infections such as pneumonia.
  • Cough with vomiting: If your baby has asthma or cold, they may vomit due to excess mucus accumulated in the stomach due to swallowing it. Or the mucus can get collected in the upper throat. Sometimes, they may vomit due to the stimulation of gag reflex while coughing.

When Should You Call The Doctor?

It is recommended to contact a pediatrician if your baby has a cough. Your baby may require immediate medical care in the following circumstances with cough (3) (7).

  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Breathing faster than usual. Generally depending on the age but respiratory rate more than 40 per minute.
  • Chest indrawing.
  • Blue color of the lips, face, or tongue
  • High fever
  • High fever with cough, without a runny or stuffy nose
  • High or mild fever in infants less than three months old
  • Cough more than few hours in infants younger than three months
  • Whooping sound after cough
  • Barking cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Stridor (sharp sound while breathing)
  • Wheezing
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Dehydration symptoms such as dry mouth, sunken eyes, no tears, and less urine

What Are The Causes Of Coughing In Babies?

Baby’s cough can be due to various factors ranging from teething to severe bacterial infections such as pertussis. Common cold, flu, and other respiratory infections may also cause cough. The common causes include (8):

  • Viral infections such as common cold, croup, etc.
  • Bacterial infections of airways such as pertussis
  • Allergic cough
  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchiolitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Congenital heart and respiratory problems
  • Foreign bodies
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Airway irritants
  • Aspiration of food
  • Teething due to excess saliva
  • Habitual cough

Diagnosis Of Cough In Babies

Your doctor makes a diagnosis by hearing the type of cough and other signs and symptoms. The diagnostic tests to identify the cause of cough may include the following.

  • Blood test
  • Chest x-ray
  • Sputum culture
  • Bronchoscopy

Treatment Of Cough In Babies

After identifying the cause of the cough, your doctor will recommend the appropriate treatment.

  • Cough due to bacterial infections requires antibiotic treatment.
  • A viral infection related cough requires supportive therapies.
  • Cough medicines are usually not recommended for children.

It is advised not to give over-the-counter cough syrup or cough drops to your baby since they have the risk of causing serious complications such as slow breathing, choking, etc. (9).

How To Prevent Cough In Babies?

The following factors may help prevent cough in babies.

  • You can prevent exacerbation of asthmatic cough by following prescribed medication.
  • Do not give small toys, which may be choking hazards.
  • Keep the baby away from smoke.
  • Follow proper feeding techniques to avoid food aspirations.
  • Get recommended vaccinations on time.
  • Try to protect your baby from contracting viral illnesses such as flu or cold if you have it.

Home Treatment For Babies With Cough

The following home remedies may help relieve cough in babies (7):

  1. Give plenty of fluids or breastmilk to soothe the throat and prevent dehydration.
  2. The baby will need more rest.
  3. Prevent the drying of the nose and throat by using a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier near a baby crib.
  4. Saline drops can be used if your baby has a stuffy nose. Bulb syringe or other suction tools can be used to clean the nose in infants.
  5. Dress your baby in warm clothing in winter months.
  6. Keep away irritants such as pets, air fresheners, or dust from your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my baby coughing but not sick?

If your baby is coughing (dry cough) continuously but showing no other symptoms of illness, a foreign object may be stuck in their airway. Therefore, seek medical attention immediately (8).

2. Is it normal for a baby to cough every day?

No. If your baby coughs daily for more than four weeks, it is considered chronic coughing. It can signify various respiratory diseases, such as allergies, sinusitis, asthma, and acid reflux (8). Contact your baby’s doctor even if they have only been coughing for a few hours (11).

3. Why does my baby cough more at night?

If your baby has a cold, you may notice that it worsens at night. This is because when lying horizontally in bed, their nasal congestion and sinuses drain down the throat, causing irritation. Additionally, cough caused by asthma can worsen at night due to increased sensitivity and irritability of the airways (12).

Cough in babies could be due to a temporary irritation to their airway or an underlying infection. If your baby is frequently coughing or shows any other symptoms of an infection, consult your pediatrician for prompt medical attention. The treatment would be provided based on the cause. Refrain from giving over-the-counter cough medications to children. Also, check with your physician which home remedies you could try with your baby (10). Note that home remedies may provide temporary relief only and may not be a permanent solution to cure cough.

Why Does Baby Cough Get Worse at Night

A frequent, persistent cough in kids can be caused by something fairly simple, like throat irritation from mucus. However, a child’s cough that doesn’t go away can also be a sign that they’re having breathing trouble.1

A kid who is coughing a lot may have asthma, a chronic condition where the airways of the lungs become inflamed and narrow. Your child’s healthcare provider can diagnose the condition and recommend treatment, like an inhaler or nebulizer.

If your child’s cough is frequent—more than every five minutes for more than two hours—call your pediatrician.

 When to See a Healthcare Provider for a Cough That Won’t Go Away

Short and Fast (Whooping) Cough

A child’s cough that has a specific sound can be a symptom of an infection. Pertussis, commonly called whooping cough, causes a fast cough and a “whoop” sound when a child takes a breath.

People of any age can get whooping cough, but it is most serious for children younger than 1-year-old. Infants can die from whooping cough.

However, infants with pertussis do not always have a cough. Instead, they may briefly stop breathing (apnea) and their skin can turn blue (cyanosis).2

The best way to prevent whooping cough is to ensure your baby gets a pertussis vaccine. It is usually given as a combination vaccination called the DTaP, which includes protection against two other serious bacterial diseases: diphtheria and tetanus.

The combination vaccine can be given starting at 2 months old. Adults should get a booster (Tdap)—especially if they are pregnant or have young children at home.

 What Caregivers Should Know About Whooping Cough

Productive (Wet) Cough

A child’s cough that’s productive or “wet” brings up fluid like mucus. When your child coughs, you’ll be able to hear the fluid moving in their airways. Usually, the fluid has drained from the head or is phlegm that’s being made in the respiratory tract.

The common cold and the flu are common causes of wet coughs in kids. These illnesses are usually not serious, and your child can be cared for at home.

While having a productive cough is no fun, it has an important purpose: it helps clear the lungs and prevent infection. That’s why healthcare providers don’t usually recommend trying to suppress a child’s cough unless it’s making it hard for them to rest or breathe.

Is My Child’s Cough COVID-19?

People with COVID-19 often have a dry (nonproductive) cough, but you can also have a wet cough from COVID.3 If your child has a cough and other COVID symptoms, or if they have been around someone who has COVID, they should be tested.

If your child’s cough from COVID lasts longer than three weeks, call their pediatrician. If at any point your child’s cough is so bad they can’t breathe, take them to the ER.

 Which Type of Cough Does COVID Cause?

Infection

Sometimes, a loud, wet cough is a warning sign that your child has an illness or condition that needs medical treatment.

If your child’s cough is bringing up green or yellow mucus, and they have to sneeze or blow their nose a lot, they might have a sinus infection.

You’ll want to take them to the pediatrician, as they might need antibiotics or allergy medication to help clear up the infection and ease their symptoms.

 Colds vs. Sinus Infections

Pneumonia

You should also watch for signs of pneumonia, an infection caused by viruses or bacteria that get into the lungs and cause them to fill with fluid.

Even if you’ve already seen your child’s healthcare provider about their cough, call them again if your child has:

  • A cold lasts for more than a week
  • A cough that’s wet, loud, and phlegmy
  • Breathing that seems faster than normal

Bacterial pneumonia is treated with antibiotics, but viral pneumonia needs to run its course. If your child gets severe pneumonia, they might need to be treated in the hospital.

 What Are the Signs of Pneumonia in Kids?

Dry Nighttime Cough

If your child’s cough is an annoying “on-and-off” cough that gets worse at night and with activity, call your pediatrician. A dry cough at night can also mean your child’s body is making too much mucus. It can also be a sign of asthma.

When to Call 911

If your child is having trouble breathing or becomes unable to speak, eat, or drink, call 911 or go to the nearest ER right away.

 What to Know About Childhood Asthma

Barking Cough

A child’s cough that sounds like a seal or small dog barking is a sign of an upper airway infection called croup.

Croup is most common in children under the age of 8. It usually starts or gets worse at night. A child may wake up with a barking cough and make a loud whistling sound when they breathe (stridor).4

A child’s cough that makes these sounds can be scary for kids and parents—but they don’t always mean you have to take a trip to the ER.

If your child wakes up with a barking cough, there are a few ways to help them at home. First, take them to the bathroom and turn on the hot water in the shower. Let the room steam up, and sit in it for about 15 minutes.

Often, sitting in a humid bathroom for a while is enough to help with the coughing and stridor from croup—at least enough to get through the rest of the night. If it does help, you can go back to sleep and call your pediatrician in the morning.

However, if it doesn’t help and your child is still coughing and having trouble breathing, go to the ER right away.

 Could Your Child’s Cough Be Croup?

Wheezing Cough

A child’s cough is not always wheezing, even if it sounds like it. People often confuse the term “wheezing” with the normal sounds a congested child makes when they breathe.

If you can hear mucus when your child is breathing, it probably is not a cause for concern. True wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound a child makes when they’re breathing out.

If your child is coughing and wheezing, you’ll want to call your pediatrician. If your child is having a hard time breathing, take them to the ER.

If your child has asthma and is coughing and wheezing, follow your family’s asthma action plan.

 What Causes Wheezing?

When to See a Healthcare Provider for a Child’s Cough

A child’s cough is not always a reason to panic. With time and experience, caregivers learn when it’s time to call their child’s healthcare provider or head to the ER.

Some warning signs mean a child’s cough is not something you can handle at home. If your child is coughing and has these symptoms, you’ll need to get them medical care right away:

  • A fever of 100.4 F or higher in an infant 2 months old or younger
  • A fever of 102 F or higher in a child of any age
  • Blue lips
  • Excessive crankiness or sleepiness
  • Labored breathing (e.g., nostrils widening with each breath, wheezing, fast breathing, or shortness of breath)
  • Loss of appetite or thirst, with signs of dehydration (such as urinating less often)
  • Persistent ear pain
  • Severe headache
  • Worsening general health5

 When to Worry About Your Child’s Fever

Comfort Care for a Child’s Cough

There are some things that you can do at home to help with your child’s cough.

  • Use a humidifier at night to put extra moisture in the air which can soothe airway irritation
  • Give children 12 and up cough drops (do not give them to younger children because they are a choking hazard5
  • Give your child plenty of cool drinks or popsicles to ease throat pain and help them stay hydrated

Should I Give My Child Cough Medicine?

Never give a child OTC medicines that are meant to be taken by adults. Kids under the age of 2 should not be given OTC cold medicines that have a decongestant or antihistamine in them because they can cause a rapid heart rate and/or convulsions.6

If you have older children, ask your pediatrician about which products are safe to give them for a cough.

 Can I Give My Kid Cough Medicine?

Summary

A child’s cough can be a common symptom of an illness that isn’t serious, but it can also be a sign of a more pressing problem. If in doubt, call your child’s healthcare provider. They will ask you to describe what the cough sounds like—or may even have you hold your phone up so they can hear your child’s cough.

There are different types of coughs that kids can get. You may need to take your child to the pediatrician to figure out what is causing their cough and get them a treatment that will help.

Even if your child’s cough can be managed at home at first, if they are not getting better, develop new or concerning symptoms, or are having trouble breathing, they need medical care right away.

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