Although coughing can be an uncomfortable disturbance, it is an important reflex that helps the body heal or protect itself, according to MedlinePlus. A cough is among the most common symptoms of illnesses in childhood, but it is most commonly caused by a viral infection, which can last for up to two weeks and doesn’t require any antibiotics. Some coughs may require medical intervention, but soothing home remedies are typically the best way to reduce a child’s discomfort until the underlying illness subsides on its own.
Trycough medicine. Although cough medicines can temporarily stop your child’s coughing, they can’t treat the underlying cause of the cough, says the Nemours Foundation. A doctor can help you determine whether your child should take cough medicine and give you dosing directions. Unless your child’s cough interferes with her ability to sleep, the Nemours Foundation says that cough medicines are generally unnecessary.
Turn on hot water in the shower, close the bathroom and sit in the room with your child for about 20 minutes. Sitting in a steam-filled room should help your child breathe if she has a “barky” cough, says the Nemours Foundation.
Turn on a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom. The mist adds moisture to the air, which can ease your child’s coughing when he’s sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Give your child 2 tsp. of honey at bedtime. According to a December 2007 article in the archives of "Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine," children over age 2 with upper respiratory tract infections were less likely to cough at night if they were given up to 2 tsp. of buckwheat honey before bed. In fact, the honey seemed to be just as effective as an over-the-counter cough suppressant.
Try cough drops if your child is older than 3. Your doctor can advise you about whether cough drops are a good idea for your child. Although cough drops are generally acceptable for older children, children under age 3 may choke on them, says the Nemours Foundation.
Talk to the doctor for extra help. According to the Nemours Foundation, a pediatrician should evaluate your child if your child: has trouble breathing, is weak or cranky, has a bluish tint in his tongue, face or lips, has a high fever, makes a “whooping” sound when he breathes in after coughing, is coughing up blood, makes a noisy sound when inhaling or is wheezing when exhaling if he hasn’t been diagnosed with asthma.
Ask your doctor if she thinks your child might be asthmatic. She will perform the necessary assessments if she believes that your child could have asthma. If needed, she will prescribe an asthma medication and give you a plan of action in the event that your child has an asthma attack.
Immediately contact your pediatrician if your child under 3 months old has been coughing for over a few hours, or if she has any fever. Don’t use any over-the-counter cough and cold combination medicines in children under age 4. Children are more likely to get an overdose or have adverse side effects, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Don’t give honey to a child under age 1 due to risk of a form of food poisoning known as infant botulism, according to the Mayo Clinic.