Coughing: Safe Home Remedies

Coughing: Safe Home Remedies

Coughing can be aggravating to you  and your child.  When your child develops a cough it is generally caused by a viral infection, also referred to as a cold.  When infected by a virus, the airway lining makes mucus to help fight the virus. Coughing clears this mucus from the lower airway. How do you best treat a cough due to the common cold?

Over-the-counter (OTC) cough suppressants and cold medicines can cause serious side effects in young children. In 2008 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that OTC cough and cold medicines never be used in those younger than 4 years. Cough medications with codeine or dextromethorphan have been proved ineffective, unsafe and can be abused to get high.  They are not recommended.

Home remedies for coughs and colds can be safe, inexpensive, and as helpful as OTC medicines.  They are also convenient.  Here are some examples of home remedies:

  • Runny Nose: Suctioning or blowing can help. Remember, when your child’s nose is running, it’s getting rid of viruses. A steamy shower or bath can help keep secretions loose and easier to cough out. Antihistamines or allergy medications do not help with a cold but can help if the runny nose is caused by nasal allergies.  If you suspect allergies in your child, discuss this with your provider.
  • Nasal Congestion: Nasal rinses work well to help loosen up dried mucus every few hours followed by blowing or suctioning the nose. Nasal saline spray or drops work well for this and are readily available at pharmacies.  You could also make your own by adding 1/4 tsp table salt to 1 cup warm water.  Some children may do better if they are allowed to spray their own noses. Clearing secretions from the nose and throat means less coughing for most colds.
  • Coughing: For children under 3 months of age: Call the office for advice. For children 3 months to 1 year of age: Give warm, clear fluids (e.g., warm water, apple juice) 5 to 15 mL up to 4 times daily when coughing is appropriate.  For children 1 year and older: A teaspoon (5 mL) of honey every 4 hours as needed thins secretions and loosens the cough.  Recent research has shown honey is better than drugstore cough syrups at reducing the severity and frequency of nighttime coughing. Honey is not recommended under one year of age.
  • Fluids: Stay hydrated. Being well hydrated thins secretions, making it easier to cough and blow the nose.
  • Humidity: Moist air from a humidifier makes secretions easier to move and decreases bloody noses and sore throats from dryness. A warm mist humidifier is easier to clean but the emitted steam can burn. A cool mist humidifier is safer but must be cleaned more often.

Call the office for an appointment if you feel your child has more than the typical ten days of congestion and cough (e.g. persistent cough more than 14 days; ear pain; persistent nasal discharge more than 14 days; fever more than four days; vomiting and stomach ache with cough; excessively sleepy or cranky)  For more information on the information above, click on the following link:


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