7 Ways to Ease Your Child’s Cough Without Medication
OTC cough meds can be risky for kids, so try these home remedies instead
It’s awful to hear your child suffering with a raspy cough, but reaching for a bottle of cough medicine isn’t smart.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), over-the-counter meds aren’t effective in kids under 6. They may even be dangerous. Dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in cough remedies such as Robitussin and Triaminic, can cause serious side effects or even death in young children according to the National Institutes of Health. The risks depend upon the ingredients in the preparation. Combination products (those with multiple ingredients) in particular are tricky because they may contain an ingredient your child is also getting from another medication.
“Most over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, which can cause sedation, while others also have acetaminophen which, if overdosed, can result in liver toxicity,” explains Kathleen Neville, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri.
Fortunately, there are several easy do-it-yourself cough remedies that can help soothe your kid’s hack. Read on for seven smart solutions.
A spoonful of honey. A bit of honey at bedtime may be just the ticket to less coughing and more sleep, according to researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. One caveat: don’t give honey to babies under 1 because of the risk of botulism.
A humidifier. Dry air can dehydrate mucous membranes, making cough and cold symptoms worse. This article offers advice on which type of humidifier to use and how to use it safely.
A chest rub. This remedy may seem old-fashioned, but for kids over two years old, a simple chest rub is a fast fix that still works today. The AAP notes that vapors from soothing menthol or camphor can relieve chest and nose congestion — though the rub should never be applied directly under the nose.
Juice and other fluids. Hydration is the ticket when it comes to battling a cold. Downing enough fluids helps loosen congestion, making it easier to cough up mucus and blow the nose, according to the AAP. Pick water and juice, but skip anything with caffeine.
Hot soup. Broth-based soups work well to hydrate. Chicken soup in particular may be the best choice, according to a study published in the journal Chest. Researchers say this elixir can combat inflammation caused by a respiratory infection, and it helps to ease cold symptoms.
Saline drops or nasal spray. Saline thins mucus while also rinsing and moisturizing the inside of the nose. For babies, try a few drops on each side and then suction nostrils with a bulb syringe. Older kids can use a saline nasal spray.
A pillow. “Raising your kid’s head level can open up clogged airways caused by a cold and allow for congestion to drain more easily,” says Neville. For babies, place a pillow underneath the crib mattress — but never directly on top as it could be a suffocation risk. Older kids can use an extra pillow in bed.