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7 Gentle Home Remedies for a Cough in Kids

home remedies for cough for kids
Foto: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash / Vitolda Klein

Over-the-counter cough medicines are often unsuitable for children, but it’s tough seeing our little ones suffer. Here are seven natural home remedies for coughs — for kids.

Kids can get coughs for many reasons, and they can be tough to treat. In fact, most over-the-counter cough syrups are unsuitable for children under six. Instead of watching your little one suffer, there are a few home remedies for kids’ coughs.

Children’s coughs can be caused by a common cold or allergies, and they’re often nothing to worry about. However, it can be distressing and confusing when we can’t make our kids feel comfortable, particularly if their cough wakes them up at night. It’s normal for a child’s cough to linger for a couple of weeks, but if it’s joined by a high fever or breathing problems, follow your instinct and contact a pediatrician as soon as possible.

For more tips on keeping your little ones healthy, check out 5 Time-tested Natural Immunity Boosters for Kids.

Let’s take a look at seven gentle home remedies for cough in kids.

1. Inhale Warm Steam as a Cough Home Remedy

Breathing in hot steam can loosen mucus in the throat.
Breathing in hot steam can loosen mucus in the throat. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Pezibear)

Steam inhalation is an effective way of loosening mucus in an irritating or phlegmy cough. The simplest way is to run a hot bath or shower and allow your child to breathe in the steam. They don’t have to have a bath or shower; they just need to get close enough to the vapors to breathe them in.

Alternatively, place a bowl of boiling water on the table and get your child to sit in front of it, placing their face directly above the water and a towel over their head. Encourage them to breathe normally and continue for 10 to 15 minutes, carefully topping up the boiling water a few times when it stops steaming. Be careful not to make this one mistake with steam inhalation.

2. Get enough Sleep

Sleep is important when kids are sick.
Sleep is important when kids are sick. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / ddimitrova)

Like many illnesses, getting enough sleep when you have a cough is vital to allow your body to heal. Ensure your child’s head is elevated by using an extra pillow or a thick adult-sized pillow. This opens up their airways and allows the mucus to drain.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep times for children:

  • 1-2 years: 12-15 hours, including naps
  • 3-5 years: 11-14 hours, including naps (if they’re still napping)
  • 6-13 years: 9-11 hours

3. Drink Warm Fluids

Encourage your child to eat warm soup or broth.
Encourage your child to eat warm soup or broth. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / LisaRedfern)

Drinking warm, caffeine-free, clear liquids like hot lemon water, soup broth (like this homemade vegetable broth) and warm lemonade can help to loosen mucus in the throat and make it easier to cough up. Give your child one to two teaspoons four times a day. Interestingly, a 2000 study found that chicken soup can work as a vaporizer by loosening snot in the nose, soothing sore throats and reducing inflammation. These effects might be due to the electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein in the soup. As with most illnesses, staying hydrated remains essential when a child has a cough.

4. Give your Child Honey to Soothe a Cough

Children over 1 can eat a teaspoon of honey.
Children over 1 can eat a teaspoon of honey. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / phuonghoangthuy)

For children over one, honey can help relieve a cough (it’s crucial that babies under one year do not consume honey, as it can lead to infant botulism). Honey thins mucus and gives relief to a persistent cough. It works very well at night, before sleep. Corn syrup works similarly if you don’t have any honey or your child is vegan.

Children between one and five years old can take half a teaspoon of honey, and children above six can take one teaspoon. It can also be added to a glass of warm water or milk if the child prefers.

Another option is making your own homemade cough syrup with onion and syrup, though this particular cough remedy might be too sophisticated for children’s tastes.

5. Ice to Soothe a Kids’ Cough

Eating popsicles can soothe a sore throat.
Eating popsicles can soothe a sore throat. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / joan_njenga)

Sucking on cold foods like ice pops or ice cubes can relieve a cough in a similar way to warm liquids. You can even freeze berries like blueberries and strawberries and give them to your child to chew. Babies above six months old who have started on solids can also chew on frozen berries or yogurt using a mesh food feeder (available on Amazon**), to avoid choking hazards.

6. Saline Drops as a Cough Home Remedy

Saline drops inserted into the nose can assist in loosening mucus that irritates the throat. Make your own saline drops at home and use them as follows:

  1. Mix one teaspoon of non-iodized salt with a teaspoon of baking soda, two cups of distilled or boiled and then cooled water.
  2. Use a pipette or squeezy bottle to put three drops in each nostril when the child is lying down, then use a suction bulb (available on Amazon**) to clear the snot from the nostrils. Or, if the child is old enough, ask them to blow through their nostril while blocking the other one.
  3. Repeat throughout the day when the nose becomes blocked again (maximum four times a day if your child is less than one year old).

If you don’t have any non-iodized salt, use bottled water or boiled and cooled tap water.

7. Gargle Saltwater to Soothe a Cough

Ask your older child to rinse their mouth with salt water.
Ask your older child to rinse their mouth with salt water. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / mkupiec7)

If the child is old enough and able to, they can gargle a saltwater solution. Mix half a teaspoon of salt with one cup of water and ask them to gargle it in small sips, spitting it out and repeating until finished. A 2005 study found that gargling salt water helps reduce inflammation and soreness in the throat. Learn more about gargling with salt water and its benefits.

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