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Cold and cough remedies

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Cough and cold remedies for your baby, toddler and child.

Check out the PedsDocTalk YouTube Video: Cough and Cold Home Remedies for Babies and Kids, for more in-depth information on remedies by age, honey after one year, turmeric milk, and when to seek medical care.

In this blog we’re going to talk about coughs associated with colds, and cough and cold remedies

Coughs can be associated with allergies and asthma. It’s important to speak with your child’s clinician to confirm a diagnosis especially if your child has a chronic cough.

If asthmatic, I need you to clear all remedies with your child’s clinician.

Read below for some remedies for cold and cough.

Why we cough

I think it’s important we speak about coughs when discussing remedies and medicines. Think: irritants in the airway like smoke and mucous dripping down can cause us to cough. Nighttime is worse because it has to do with gravity. During the day, any nasal drainage to the back of the throat will irritate the cough receptors but won’t pool there. When we are horizontal, mucous can settle and irritate those cough receptors.

Remedies for a child (under one) who has congestion and cough:

  • Saline helps because they can’t blow their nose yet, so this helps alleviate that. Sometimes it will be just saline and sometimes it will be need to suction. Use saline only if congested. Suction only if very congested and bothered, otherwise no need to suction. Nature will do it’s thing!
  • Try a baby chest rub (Vicks or Zarbees). Remember for children under two to ALWAYS use the baby version as this does not have menthol (menthol is too strong for infant airways!)
  • Use a cool mist humidifier. It can help for some! My recommendation is it’s great to have incase your child benefits from one. (Going back to why cough is annoying – this can help moisten the airways). Remember to talk to your child’s clinician if allergies or asthmatic because this can actually make symptoms worse!
  • Give a steam shower. Have you ever had a cold and took a hot shower and you felt better? The steam opens up your airways. To do it, close the door of bathroom, turn on hot water and stand in there for no more than 15 min with child. This is similar to a humidifier and adds moisture to airways.
  • Baby Zarbees. With any homeopathic type cough syrup, remember they are not FDA approved, so we take them with trust in the company. I have many families who love this and I do have it myself but haven’t used it yet because once child turns one, I go to honey or turmeric milk.
  • Keep them hydrated with what they usually drink (breast milk or formula). If they are over 6 months and drinking water, you can do that too.

Remedies for a child (over one) who has congestion and cough:

  • Give a teaspoon of honey at night – this can actually help treat the illness and help the cough, whereas other remedies just relieve the symptoms.
  • My favorite home remedy is turmeric milk or golden milk. Read here for more.
  • Try a cough syrup. There are many cough syrups on market marketed for children over one, but my go-to will always be turmeric milk!

Remedies for a child who has congestion and cough 4+

  • Give honey and turmeric milk first because it can focus on the the inflammation causing the mucous which is causing the discomfort. (Thus treating the root cause).
  • When looking at OTC cough medicines, here’s a breakdown of common ingredients:
    • Dextromethorphan – this works by decreasing part of the brain that causes coughing, which is one of my favorites if honey and turmeric milk aren’t cutting it.
    • Phenylephrine – This is a decongestant that constricts (shrinks) dilated blood vessels within the nose, relieving congestion.
    • Guaifenesin – This is an expectorant. It helps loosen congestion in your chest and throat, making it easier to cough out through your mouth.
    • For congestion, try Sudafed.
    • With a mucousy cough, try Mucinex.
    • If the child is simply coughing, try Delsym.
  • But really, I’m going to say it again–my go to is turmeric milk twice a day and Vicks rub on the chest (After two years of age, you can use the adult version of Vicks Vapor Rub or a chest rub).

When to worry

  • A persistent fever (watch my fever video for more)
  • If your child is sluggish
  • Not staying hydrated
  • Increased work of breathing
  • Thick green mucous for more than 10 days (we want to make sure not sinus infection), or thick green mucous for 3 days WITH fever
  • If cough is lingering past 3 weeks and your child is losing weight, sluggish, irritable
  • When a cough is lingering past one month and your child is active, sleeping well, and losing weight–you can monitor. But if they’re seeming tired, winded with activities, and seeming unwell – it’s a good idea to get them evaluated.

Watch the PedsDocTalk YouTube Video: cough and cold home remedies for babies and kids


Dr. Mona Admin

Hi there!

I’m a Board Certified Pediatrician, IBCLC, and a mom of two.

I know the ups and downs of becoming a mom and raising kids.

I help moms ditch the worry and second-guessing so you can find more joy in motherhood.


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All information presented on this blog, my Instagram, and my podcast is for educational purposes and should not be taken as personal medical advice. These platforms are to educate and should not replace the medical judgment of a licensed healthcare provider who is evaluating a patient.

It is the responsibility of the guardian to seek appropriate medical attention when they are concerned about their child.

All opinions are my own and do not reflect the opinions of my employer or hospitals I may be affiliated with.