Cough Remedies For Baby

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.

Elderflower

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

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.

Dosing:

  • 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

Elecampane

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.

Dosing:

  • 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.

Cough Remedies For Baby At Home

Perfect home remedies for cough, rather before cough sets in.

1. Diet :

It plays a very important role in building immunity and resistance towards external factors of a child. In balanced daily diet of fruits and vegetables, include foods which are rich in Vitamin C (Lemon, oranges etc.), Vitamin D(Mushroom, fortified milk, cereal and oatmeals) Curd, Probiotics. All these help in a strong Immune system.

2. Clean Environment :

Keep the house, surfaces clean and disinfected. Open Cups, glasses, table tops usually get infested with viruses and dusts within few hours. Even kids have frequent access to phones and their surfaces are the most dangerous for kids. Keep cleaning all these surfaces and specially the gadgets/mobile which your kids get hooked to multiple times.

Cleaning the hands is another important task. Most of the diseases be it cold, stomach issues in kids are all due to viruses entering via hands. Hence ensure that hands are washed before and after meal time, after play and similar instances. Do santitize their hands or use wet wipes when travelling.

3. Proper Sleep :

Usually as kids grow, their activities grows and their sleep gets cut down drastically. Kids themselves do not want to sleep rather play and do their loved crafts. But here is what we, as parents need to ensure. Check out the minimum sleep requirements age wise here. Less of sleep, anxiety and stress all add up to a poor Immune system.

4. Enough of liquids :

Be it Summers or winters, there has to be enough of liquid intake. During early morning and late night one should always try giving warm liquid/water to the kids. That slight warmness will de-clog the passages from building the mucus.

Let me share two amazing tea for sore throat or even for cold/cough. Even if not, you can drink it sometimes a week.

5. Chamomile Tea :

Try giving chamomile tea at least thrice a week. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory effects and relaxes the body. Be assured that you/your kid is not allergic to it. There are many pure herbal tea’s available, but refer your paediatrician before giving any herb to your kid.

6. Honey – lemon Tea :

One can always go for Honey – Lemon tea for kids older than a year. It has a delectable taste due to honey and this tea is full of vitamin C, must for body’s resistance. You can also add Ginger and some spices as grounded clove, black pepper, cinnamon, black salt and brown sugar, which will add taste as well as make it more nutritious. Usually this mixture with all spices does wonder in cold and cough. For daily use,  keep it simple and just add lemon juice and a spoon of honey to lukewarm water and give it to your kid.

7. Soup :

Vegetable /Tomato/ Chicken Soup,  are some which are must for kids in all seasons. While in winters and rains, frequency can be daily, in summers it can be twice or thrice a week. It has all important nutrients a kids growing body needs. Make vegetable soup with all seasonal veggies in it.

8. Turmeric Milk :

Whether suffering from cold or not, I try to give Turmeric milk to my son daily in winters and twice/trice a week during rainy season. Turmeric has ample medicinal properties and this milk should be given daily in morning and at night if a child is suffering from cold. We simply needs to add a pinch of turmeric to boiling milk. Let it become normal and give it to your kid to drink it.

9. Saffron + Cardamom Milk :

This is a delicious alternative of plain milk in winters. I usually boil one-two strands of pure saffron in milk for close to 15minutes. It will leave a yellow tinge to the milk. Add little sugar and cardamom to it. It is absolutely delicious and a perfect remedy for cold and cough in kids.

Natural or home remedies for cough or cold for baby :

10. Honey :

Honey is really safe and full of many important nutrients & minerals, must for a healthy and resistant body. It relieves the cough and helps in a good sleep as well. After a kid is 1yo, it can be given in various forms. (Refrain toddler lass than a year old since it enhances risk of Botulism).

Honey + Ginger :

Mash the ginger pulp, squeeze the juice out of it. Add 1/2 teaspoon honey to it and give it to your kid twice a day for treating cold and cough.

Honey + Ginger + Neem(Azadirachta indica) :

Neem has anti-bacterial capacity in itself. When the seasons change and during cough, get some reddish – green new and small Neem leaves. Mash it with ginger and form a paste. Sieve out the juice, add honey and give it. It even helps fight seasonal fever if given as soon as the season changes for minimum 15-20days. When we were kids we used to eat Neem leaves with black pepper during seasonal changes and I need to say, we rarely got any fevers. A perfect home remedy for cold and cough.

Honey + Ginger + Tulsi (Basil leaves) :

Just as the above mixture, this also helps to relieve cold and cough. You should give atleast twice – thrice a day incase of severe cough.

11. Garlic + Carom Seeds (Ajwain):

Garlic with its anti bacterial and anti-viral properties is great for building resistance in the body. All you need to do is, roast 2 cloves Garlic and 1/2 – 1 teaspoon carom seeds , toss them up for next 2-3 minutes. Let them cool and put it in a muslin cloth. Put this close to your kid’s pillow or you can even tie this in his arm. The slight fragrance oozing out will help relief in blocked nose while sleeping.

12. Camphor :

It is very helpful in opening up the blocked nose. Even if you ask your kid to inhale a box with 10-12 small camphor, his nose will open. You can also add pinch of powdered camphor in warm coconut oil and massage on your kids chest. Don’t take it closer to eyes or mouth. Ensure that camphor is not taken by your kid in absence of an adult and should not be ingested.

13. Vicks Vaporub :

I guess it needs no introduction. But you can use vaporub in steam and inhale that moisture. This will help a quick opening of the nasal passage.

14. Elevation of the head : 

Sleeping and cold just do not go with one another. Usually the nose blockages and coughing increases while sleeping. So at the outset, give a steam inhalation with Karvol/Vicks and then massage either camphor+oil or vaporub on chest and soles of the feet. Then elevate your child’s head compared to the lower body which will make breathing easier.

15. Saline Water :

These are perfect drops to loosen up the mucus which has been clogged. Many such drops (Nasoclear) are available in the market. These are even safe to use for kids less than a year old. Simply put 2-3 drops in the nostril and let your child have a good night sleep.

16. Cool :

Mist Humidifier , warm bath in a steamy bathroom are great alternatives. Breathing the moist  air clears the mucus in the nasal passage and thus a better breathability. Get one cool – mist vaporizer/humidifier here. Let the bathroom be in hot steam for few minutes and then give your kid a warm bath in that steamy bathroom.

17.Gargling :

Gargling with salt / lemon water(lukewarm water) is another option suitable for kids more than 4/5 yo.

18. Kadha :

Well, this is every granny’s choice I believe. This magical juice has all the natural herbs and ingredients to relieve cough/cold and fever. And it is a perfect home remedy for cough. My granny used to add – Carom seeds, Basil leaves, Ginger, Clove, Black pepper, Black salt, jaggery, cinnamon, pinch of turmeric, grounded fenugreek seeds to the boiling water. Boil this whole mixture till it remains half. Let it cool and then give it to your child to drink atleast twice a day. Well, this is not truly loved by kids but then if taken, it is sure to show its magical effect within 2 days.

19. Onion :

Well, onion is of lot importance in Coughing. one can easily sieve Onion juice and add Honey to it and allow it for 2-3hours to blend it properly. One can take it 2-3 times a day. For older kids, you can even make Onion Broth and they can drink 1/2cup 2-3times a day.

20. Wheat Flour + Jaggery :

This can be a very good option for cough and cold in kids but should be given either in the night just before sleeping or after getting up in the morning. Take a spoon of ghee and add grounded pepper and small grounded clove. Add half a spoon wheat flour and roast it. Stir it till it becomes little brown. Boil Jaggery and Water on another side. Once the flour has been roasted, add sieved jaggery solution to it. Stir continuously and let it simmer for next 5 minutes. Ensure that there are no wheat balls formed. Incase, balls get formed (could be due to improper roasting)  , let it cool and then filter it up. Serve slight hot, just as soup.

I hope I have been able to help out stressed mama’s from these nasty cold and coughs. What all is required is serious and continuous efforts wrt home remedies for cough, before kids catch it and even afterwards.

Medications will do no good to kids body, but if we can make them immune and resistant, life will be healthier and happier. Use these home remedies for cough.

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