It’s late and your child is awake with a cough. The cough is interrupting everyone’s sleep, not just your sick child. We’ve all been there before as parents.
You want to help, but you’re not sure what the safe and effective options are in order to help. Should you try an over-the-counter (OTC) product, call your pediatrician’s advice line, or wait it out until the morning and then call your pediatrician’s office for an appointment?
OTC cough/cold medications for children < 2 years old were pulled from store shelves in 2008. There is little proof that such medications do anything to ease the symptoms of sick children who are < 6 years old.
Here are a few home remedies that are just as (if not more) effective and safer than those old OTC medications.
Multiple studies have shown that various forms of honey (eucalyptus, buckwheat, citrus, or labiatae) are effective at helping reduce night time cough and difficulty sleeping associated with a viral upper respiratory tract infection (URI).
Honey was more effective than placebo and OTC cough syrups, and definitely safer.
Just give ½ to 1 teaspoon as needed, preferably within 30 minutes prior to bedtime.
The only limitation is that children < 1 year old should not be given honey due to a rare possibility that it could contain a bacterium that causes infant botulism. There are a few products on the market that are honey (or agave) based preparations, the most common being Zarbee’s.
Saline solution offers a way to keep the tiniest noses clear.
You can make your own by combining ½ teaspoon of table salt per 1 cup of warm tap water. Put 2-3 drops in the nostril and use a bulb syringe to suction it out.
This is most helpful prior to nursing, bottle feeding, or sleeping.
Older children can also gargle saline solution to help with a sore throat. Even running a cool-mist humidifier at night can have beneficial effects.
Rubs can help with chest and nose congestion.
However, camphor-based products should not be used in children < 2 years old. For these younger children, try a eucalyptus or lavender based product instead.
Rub the product underneath the child’s clothing to prevent contact with hands/mouth.
*** If all else fails, you can always call your pediatrician’s advice line or clinic for more information, especially if your child’s symptoms are severe, long lasting, or associated with persistent fevers.