Helping your kids through cough season

Naturopath 4-minute read
Helping your kids through cough season
Hearing your little one cough can be heartbreaking and there are some coughs you'll want to keep an eye on. If you're looking for tips to soothe a mild childhood cough, here are a few of our faves.

Most coughs are a sign of viral infection. They can last from a few days to up to three weeks, and often it's just a matter of finding ways to ease symptoms.

However, coughs can develop quickly when kids are small. So, it's important to monitor them or get your child assessed by a health practitioner if you notice any of the following:

  • Coughing up yellow mucus (like phlegm)
  • Feeling hot and shivery or running a fever
  • The cough is dragging on for over two weeks

Any of these can be a sign of bacterial infection and antibiotics may be needed.

Different types of coughs

There are two types of coughs:

Wet coughs

Wet coughs can feel like you have something rattling around in your chest or stuck at the back of your throat. They happen when mucus settles in those areas and your body tries to get rid of it. For this reason, it's called a 'productive' cough, as it has a goal – to move mucus out of your airways and into your mouth so you can spit it out. (Yes, it's a bit gross. Keep a tissue close by!)

With wet coughs, it's important to try and keep mucus thin so it is easily removed.

Dry coughs

A dry cough is caused when your throat is irritated and inflamed. With this type of cough, your body isn't trying to get rid of something, so it's called an 'unproductive' cough. If you've experienced it, you might remember a tickle at the back of your throat making you want to cough or your throat feeling quite raw.

With dry coughs, it's important to keep the linings of the throat moistened.

Tips for soothing kid's coughs

These tips are to help soothe very mild childhood coughs only.

1. Drink honey and warm water

This combination is great for soothing irritated airways.

Honey and warm water tastes nice too. So hopefully, it won't be too hard to convince picky eaters or drinkers to give it a go! Try adding 1 teaspoon of honey to a cup of warm water, or for older kids (ages 12+), try our lemon, ginger and honey soother recipe.

Honey has been shown to be effective in reducing mucus production and coughs in children and adults.1 The antibacterial properties of honey may also support your natural healing process and reduce recovery time. If you're not sure which variety to try, Mānuka Honey is well known for its antibacterial strength

2. Use steam to clear airways

Steam helps to moisten the airways. It can also loosen mucus that has become thicker and harder to remove through coughing.

Here are three ways you can use steam:

  • Fill a bowl with hot water and let your child inhale the steam. Add pure essential oils like Peppermint, Thyme, Eucalyptus or Mānuka to help open the airways. Kids can be a little unpredictable, so be careful with the hot water. Try placing the bowl on a solid surface to reduce the risk of it moving, for example, a coffee table.
  • Try a humidifier in the bedroom. You can add the same essential oils to the humidifier. You can also add a few drops of these essential oils to a carrier oil, like sweet almond or olive oil, which makes it safer to place on the skin. When rubbed on the chest or upper back, diluted essential oils can help to clear their airways and make them feel relaxed. Make sure to avoid contact with the eyes.
  • Use your bathroom to create a safe steam environment. Run a hot shower and close the door. The room will fill with steam. Turn off the shower then have your child breathe in the warm moist air for up to 15 minutes. Do not put them under a hot shower.

3. Keep hydrated

Staying hydrated is important to keep mucous thin. The thinner the mucous, the easier it is for the body to remove through coughing.

To keep fluids up, encourage your child to drink plenty of warm water (with honey if you like!), herbal teas and juices. Avoid dairy-based drinks where possible. For example, milk. Dairy can lead to increased mucus production, so at this time, it's important to keep them to a minimum.

Struggling to encourage your child to drink more fluids? Give these ideas a go:

  • Add a fun straw to the drink. For example, twisty, patterned or themed straws.
  • Keep snacks handy with high water content. For example, watermelon or strawberries.
  • Try soup for lunch or dinner. Try to avoid cream-based soups as they contain dairy.

4. Take Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant, which means it can support our immune response. Vitamin C also happens to be the number one antioxidant for the lungs – which are often under stress when coughing.

Make sure you have lots of Vitamin C sources available to keep levels up, like:

  • Oranges or orange juice (freshly squeezed)
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwifruit
  • Strawberries
  • Red capsicum

5. Add more pillows at bedtime

Sometimes when lying flat, mucus can pool at the back of the throat. If you have a wet cough, this can feel quite uncomfortable and result in more coughing. So it's no surprise it makes it harder to relax and fall asleep!

To help them settle, use a few pillows or cushions to raise your child's head slightly. You can also pop a cup of water next to the bed in case they wake up and need relief in the night.

Keep an eye on kid's coughs

We hope these tips help and your little one feels better soon. Remember coughs can be tricky and can change quickly. If your child's cough gets worse or you see no improvement, check in with their health practitioner.



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