When your kid has a cough that just won't quit, it can be maddening. You just want to be able to do something, anything, to make them more comfortable, especially when they're hacking away at night. Fortunately, there are some helpful hacks to make your kid's lingering cough go away so they feel — and sleep — better (and you do too).
Before you start treating the cough, it's important to understand what kind of cough you're dealing with because it might not be as straightforward as it seems. A lingering cough can be a sign of inflammation of the airways from a bad cold, but it can also be due to allergies or even acid reflux, explains Richard A. Honaker, MD, a Family Practice physician and a senior medical advisor for Your Doctors.Online, in an interview with Romper.
Another thing to consider is something called cough-variant asthma, which is marked by a dry, chronic cough lasting more than 6 to 8 weeks, according to Lauren Fine, MD, an allergist/immunologist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, in an interview with Everyday Health. Yet, while the condition is common in young children, it can be difficult to diagnose because "kids under 4 years of age may be too young to do the breathing test,” according to Fine.
When in doubt, it's always a good idea to get your pediatrician's advice. Once you know what's causing your little one's cough, it's way easier to manage. Here are five helpful cough hacks from medical experts.
Surprisingly enough, you might find the best treatment for your child's cough in the pantry, not the medicine cabinet.
Researchers looked at the effects of honey on nighttime coughing and found that "children who received honey coughed less frequently, less severely, and were less likely to lose sleep due to the cough when compared to those who didn't get honey," explained WebMD, reporting on a study originally published in Pediatrics.
However, for babies under 1, honey should be avoided, as it can cause botulism, according to American Family Physicians.
If you're treating a cough related to the common cold, steam might be the best remedy. "One can try warm steamy showers or a humidifier," advises Dr. Honaker.
The best part is that steam is a natural treatment for children of all ages. "For infants and young children, turn the bathroom into a steam room with the door closed and the shower on full hot. Sit in there for 10 or 15 minutes. For older children, use a facial steamer or pot of hot water (carefully!)," according to Ask Doctor Sears.
If your child has been diagnosed with cough-variant asthma, running the humidifier in their room is also recommended, according to Kid Emergencies. "[Be] sure to change the water every day to prevent mold from growing in it," advised the same Kid Emergencies article.
3The "Tincture of Time"
If your child has a cough that persists a bit longer than the runny nose, it might just need the "tincture of time," according to Dr. Honaker. The cough could be "due to airway inflammation from a bad cold", he explains. "There are great prescription meds (inhalers) for this but it will go away by itself with time, usually 1-3 weeks."
Waiting for your kiddo to get better isn't fun, but all those extra snuggles — those are pretty great.
4Bedtime Tweaks (for the acid reflux-related cough)
If your pediatrician concludes that your child's cough is due to acid reflux, there are some simple tweaks you can make to their bedtime routine to help.
"Avoid pre-bedtime snacks, try over-the-counter (OTC) acid meds with your doctor's approval, and elevate the child a bit with an extra pillow to keep acid from trickling up the esophagus and then spilling into the windpipe thus causing a cough," advises Dr. Honaker.
Your pediatrician will weigh in on the best OTC medication for your child, however, "most over-the-counter antacids aren’t approved for children under the age of two," according to Healthline.
5A Good Clean
Sometimes a chronic cough can be due to allergies, according to American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
If allergies are indeed the culprit, Dr. Honaker recommends trying OTC allergy medications, but only if your doctor okays it.
It's also a good idea to change your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) filters regularly — and to use one with good allergen removal, according to Dr. Honaker. Other steps to reduce allergens in your home include investing in a vacuum with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) or small-particle filter, cleaning the curtains, and even maintaining the ideal temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 72 degrees Fahrenheit can help, according to Mayo Clinic.