Coughing Remedy For Baby

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How to Soothe a Toddler’s Cough

boy coughing outside

First things first, it’s helpful to know what not to do. If your child is coughing, don’t reach for a cough suppressant. “Cough suppressants may actually be harmful. They make some kids hyperactive, dizzy, and restless at bedtime,” says Catherine Tom-Revzon, PharmD, a pediatrics clinical pharmacy manager at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) explains that cough suppressants may also be unsafe for those under 4 years old.

But just because you can’t offer your toddler a cough suppressant doesn’t mean there is nothing you can do. When your toddler is coughing and miserable, try some of these safe, natural home remedies for cough for kids.

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Honey and Honeycombs

Studies have shown that honey is better than medicine for relieving coughs and helping a sick toddler sleep better. “Honey is safe for children age 1 and older, and kids are happy to take it because it tastes good,” says researcher Ian Paul, M.D., a member of the AAP’s clinical pharmacology and therapeutics committee.

Dark honey, such as buckwheat, may work best because it’s higher in antioxidants. But if you can’t find buckwheat honey, rest assured that any natural honey will do the trick thanks to its potent antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can go a long way in soothing a sore throat.

Give half a teaspoon to children ages 1 to 5 years and one teaspoon to kids ages 6 to 11. If your child won’t take honey directly, you can also add it to warm water, herbal tea, or warm milk.

But skip this remedy for kids under 1: Experts say that you should never give honey to babies younger than 12 months as they are at increased risk of severe illness from certain bacteria that can be found in it.

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Chicken Noodle Soup

chicken noodle soup

It’s more than an old folk remedy: Research shows that chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties. Its warm temperature can soothe sore throats and also acts as a vaporizer, helping to loosen mucus in the nasal passages, which can alleviate that stuffy nose. And since a cough and sore throat is oftentimes caused by a post-nasal drip (mucus running down the throat instead of out the nose), being able to open the nasal passages to help clear them out will help stop the coughing too.

The magic in the soup may come from the perfect balance of electrolytes, which help keep you hydrated, balanced by the protein and carbohydrates, making this a perfect meal for anyone who feels icky. It’s no wonder a bowl of chick soup can feel like a warm hug.

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Hot or Cold Drinks

girl drinking apple juice

Warm or very cold liquids make excellent toddler cough remedies because they thin out mucus, which makes it easier to cough up. Plus, liquids soothe a raw throat and keep your little one hydrated.

While it may seem like common sense, scientists only recently took an interest in understanding how this phenomenon works. Researchers at the Common Cold Center at Cardiff University found that hot beverages in particular are the most effective at soothing cold and flu symptoms. In their study, they noted hot drinks relieved symptoms from runny nose, cough, sneezing, sore throat, chills, and fatigue. But a warm, room temperature beverage had fewer benefits and only temporarily relieved runny nose, coughing, and a sore thorat.

Cold drinks are also beneficial because they can numb a sore throat while helping to hydrate at the same time. Try not to drink ice cold juice that is highly acidic (think organe juice) since the acidity can increase discomfort in a raw throat sore from coughing.

Have your child sip ice water, cold or warm juice, or warm caffeine-free herbal tea.

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Soothing Treats

rainbow popsicles

Children age 4 and older can suck on sore throat or cough lozenges, sugar-free hard candies, or even frozen berries. A Popsicle or crushed ice are great choices for a younger kids with a cough-inducing scratchy throat.

Babies as young as 6 months and who have started on solid foods can safely gnaw on frozen foods in a baby mesh bag. Using a mesh bag for things like frozen berries, yogurt, or even an ice cube in a mesh bag can help alleviate a sore throat and cough without the risk of chocking.

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Cool-Mist Humidifier

Vicks Filter Free Cool Mist Humidifier

Keep a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s room to help loosen chest and nasal congestion, which is a great remedy for nighttime coughing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a cool air humidifier used in tandem with other treatments such as rest, drinking plenty of fluids, and consuming honey can help relieve coughing and other cold and flu symptoms. While it won’t cure the cause, it will certainly help your little one feel a little better, especially at night when coughing may be worse.

Bacteria and mold grow quickly, so change the water daily and thoroughly clean the unit, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Another good option: Have your child sit in a steamy bathroom or take a warm shower. (Try Vick’s Filter Free Cool-Mist Humidifier).

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Salt Water Gargle

Salt Shaker Spill Wooden Table

One of the simplest toddler cough remedies involves salt and water. Simply mix one-half teaspoon of salt with 8 ounces of water, then have your child gargle the solution. It should ease the throat irritation that often comes with coughing. (Note: This should only be given to older toddlers, who can be trusted to spit out the solution without swallowing it.)

Salt draws water, which makes it an excellent remedy for coughing and sore throats since the tissue in the upper respiratory tract tends to become inflamed from excess mucus and fluids, causing coughing and soreness. In a randomized study, researchers found a significant decrease in upper respiratory tract infections after participants regularly gargled with salt water while ill.

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Propped-Up Position

cough remedies for kids sleeping child

Elevate an older child’s head with an extra pillow at night; this will open their airways so mucus can drain. (But call your doctor for any cough if your child is younger than 4 months.)

Mucus doesn’t take a break at bedtime and can build up in the back of the throat, especially if your child has a stuffed up nose. To help ease symptoms and reduce coughing, prop your child’s head up to help mucus keep moving. And since a dry throat can become easily irritated and cause even more mucus build up, make sure to use a humidifier close to your child’s bed.

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Saline Solution

Little Remedies Saline Spray

Your toddler’s cough may be caused by postnasal drip. Loosen up clogged mucus with a few drops of saline solution, then suck it out with a suction bulb. (Try Little Remedies Saline Spray and Drops).

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Chest Rub

Vicks BabyRub Soothing Vapor Ointment

If your child is older than 2, you can ease congestion with a chest rub, like Vicks BabyRub. The product—which contains aloe, eucalyptus, lavender, and rosemary—might help your toddler get a better night’s sleep. (Try Vicks BabyRub Soothing Vapor Ointment).

The active ingredient is eucalyptus, which is a natural expectorant that helps to loosen mucus, which can ease coughing, open nasal passages, and soothe a sore throat.

Home Remedy For Baby Coughing and Wheezing

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.

Infographic: Ways To Prevent Allergic Cough In Babies

Getting rid of the common allergens may help prevent allergic cough in babies. Refer to this infographic to know the hidden culprits that may trigger cough in babies and get rid of them as soon as possible.

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