It's natural to worry when your child has a bad cough. Typically, a child's cough is nothing to worry about, and is often caused by a common cold or allergies.
Because over-the-counter cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under 6, it can be challenging to know how to help your child feel comfortable – especially if a cough is keeping them up at night. Nazima Zakhidova, M.D., pediatrician at Children's Health℠, shares nine home remedies for cough in babies and young children.
Home remedies for cough in children
Drink lots of fluids
Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. Staying well-hydrated can help children fight off colds. Drinking warm liquids such as caffeine-free tea, broth or hot water with lemon can help relieve a cough by loosening up mucus and soothing a sore throat.
Consider using a humidifier
Dry air can make a child's cough worse. Consider placing a cool-mist humidifier in your child's room, near where they sleep. This can help ease their cough by moisturizing the throat, reducing throat irritation and making your child more comfortable.
Breathe in warm water vapors
Let your child breathe in water vapors from a warm bath or shower. This can help loosen mucus and, as a bonus, calm your child before bed.
Try icy treats
Give your child cold items like popsicles or ice cream to make a hurting throat feel better. Electrolyte replenishing freezer pops (such as Pedialyte popsicles) are great ways to keep your child hydrated if they are not eating or drinking well.
Saline and suction
Nasal congestion may be contributing to your child's cough. A child may breathe through their mouth when they have a stuffy nose, which can irritate their throat and lead to coughing. Children may also experience postnasal drip, which happens when mucus drips down the back of the throat and can cause coughing.
Reducing your child's nasal congestion may help reduce their cough. Having your child blow their nose frequently or using a saline solution, such as a nose spray or mist, can help loosen mucus in the nose. If your child is not old enough to blow their own nose, use a suction bulb to help clear mucus from their nose. Learn more about nasal congestion in babies and toddlers.
Give a spoonful of honey (over age 1)
A teaspoon of honey can help combat coughing and soothe your child's throat. This cough remedy is only recommended for children over age 1.
Gargle with salt water
Gargling salt water can help relieve a sore throat and reduce mucus and congestion. Mix half a teaspoon of salt with a glass of warm water, then have your child gargle the mixture. This remedy is typically best for children over 6 or 7 years old, who can gargle the salt water without swallowing it.
Elevate your child's head while sleeping
Propping up your child's head with an extra pillow or two may help reduce their cough at night. Elevating their head can help congestion drain and ease a cough related to postnasal drip (when mucus gathers and drips down the back of the throat). This is only recommended for children over 2 years old.
Get some zzz's
Encourage your child to get plenty of rest and sleep to promote healing. While coughing may seem worse at night, the above tips may help your child stop coughing and get some good sleep.
When to call your child's doctor
It can take a couple of weeks for a child to recover from a cold. However, if your child's cough lingers, is accompanied by symptoms such as a high fever or difficulty breathing, or you are concerned that it may be a sign of a more serious illness (see other common causes of coughs in children), contact your child's pediatrician as soon as possible.
With two pediatric emergency rooms, pediatric urgent care locations around the metroplex, high-quality virtual care and expert pediatricians, Children's Health is nearby and ready to help when you need it most.