Treatments for Cough in Children

How can I treat my child's cough at home?

Home treatments should never take the place of consulting your child's doctor for any of the conditions listed above, but there are several things you can do at home to make your child more comfortable when he or she has an annoying cough.

  • If your child has asthma, make sure you have received asthma-management instructions from your child's doctor. Monitor your child's progress carefully during a flare-up and give asthma medicines according to the doctor's instructions.

  • If your child wakes up with a "barking" or "croupy" cough in the middle of the night, take her into the bathroom, close the door, and let the shower run on hot for several minutes. After the room steams up, sit on the bathroom floor with your child for about 20 minutes. The steam should help your child breathe more easily. Try reading a book together to keep your child occupied.

  • A cool-mist humidifier in your child's room might help her sleep through the night.

  • Cool beverages like juice can be soothing; avoid carbonated or citrus drinks, however, because carbonation and citric acid can be painful on raw areas.

  • You should not give your child (especially a baby or toddler) OTC cough medicine without specific instructions to do so from your child's doctor. Many of these medicines suppress coughs, but respiratory illnesses sometimes produce a lot of secretions and coughing helps clear them out of the airway. If the cough were suppressed with medicine, it could actually be harmful to your child. In some instances, these medicines have even caused dangerous side effects when given to infants or very young children. In addition, the guidelines for OTC doses for children are often derived from adult guidelines (not formulated specifically for small children), so the medicine may not work exactly as intended.

  • Cough drops, which are fine for older children, are a choking hazard for young children. It's best to leave decisions about your child's medicine to your child's doctor.