Keep Her Head Elevated
If your little sickie is over the age of one, arrange a few pillows under her back, shoulders and head so that she can sleep in a slightly upright position, allowing for easier breathing. For a baby, place a pillow underneath her crib mattress to elevate the area where she rests her head.
Turn your bathroom into a steam room, recommends William Sears, M.D., pediatrician and author of The Baby Book and dozens of other childcare books. Run a hot shower, close the door, and sit inside with your child for 15 minutes before bed and again for 15 minutes in the morning. The steam helps loosen chest and nasal congestion, making it easier for kids to cough or blow it out. To keep your kid from getting bored, bring in a snack or books. While you’re in the steam room -- and if your child will let you -- drum on his back and chest (where the lungs are) to help break up congestion there. Use your open palms and clap harder than you would if you were burping him, but not so hard that it hurts him.
Use a Humidifier
Keep the steam going in the nursery by running a cool-mist humidifier all night to keep your child’s airways clear and moist. In the morning, open the windows and air out the room for a bit; the humidity overnight may cause mold to grow.
Get a NoseFrida
Once the steam has done its job of loosening up mucus in your little hacker, encourage him to cough it out. For his nose, use a nasal aspirator to clear out his sinuses (most kids don’t master the art of blowing their nose until 4 or 5). A bulb syringe will do an okay job, but if you really want the Cadillac of snot suckers, the NoseFrida is best in class. Yes, you do literally suck mucus out of your tyke’s nose through a tube, but don’t be intimidated; the device’s ingenious design ensures that the nasty stuff will never touch your mouth.
Clear the Nose
In addition to using a nasal aspirator, spray a saline solution in each of your child’s nostrils to loosen mucus a few times a day. Since post-nasal drip tickles the throat and mouth-breathing dries it out, keeping the nose un-stuffed is key to treating coughs.
Get Sweet on Honey
Because of major safety concerns, cough and cold medicines are no longer recommended for children under age 6. Health Canada has banned them here. What's more, honey treats nighttime coughing better than that over-the-counter stuff, according to research. The type of honey used in the studies was buckwheat, a darker, stronger-tasting variety, but all types should do the trick of soothing and coating scratchy throats. Give a spoonful to your child before bed and as needed. Since babies under one shouldn’t consume honey, you may need to be resourceful with your littlest ones. Kenneth Wible, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Care Center at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, MO, has had success giving maple syrup to his youngest grandchildren.
Read More about Health Canada's policy on cold medications:
Lift Your Ban On Candy
Dr. Wible also says that sucking on sugar-free hard candy (for kids over 4 only) may offer “some kids some benefit” when it comes to quieting coughs. Don’t count on a ton of relief, but sweets make everyone feel a little better, right? While you’re in the candy aisle, pick up some mini Crunch bars for yourself -- taking care of a sick kid is hard work!
Encourage Her to Drink
We all know we’re supposed to “drink extra fluids” when we’re sick, but why? Does it really do anything? Yes, says Dr. Sears, staying hydrated can thin mucus secretions, which allows them to be expelled from your body more easily. Keep a drink by your child’s bed at night. Avoid orange juice, though, as it can irritate a throat that’s sore from coughing.
Don't Be Afraid of Milk
In your efforts to get your child to drink more, you may think you have to stick to water and juice. But milk, if your kiddo likes it, can do his body good. And it doesn’t, contrary to popular belief, increase mucus production; many studies have proven that association to be a complete myth. What it means: A few glasses of the white stuff won’t make your kid’s cough worse, but it will keep him hydrated. And the vitamin D is a boost to his wounded immune system.
Serve Chicken Soup
Though no one is sure why, studies have proven that chicken soup really does ease coughs and soothe sore throats. The best part: It doesn’t matter whether it’s homemade or comes from a can.
Get Her to Gargle
Chicken soup too much work? Take away the chicken, the noodles, and the veggies, and what do you have? Warm, salty water -- which is another time-tested, expert-approved cough remedy. Again, no one’s really sure why this works, though it could be that the salt absorbs excess fluid from swollen throat tissues, temporarily reducing their size and making them less tender. What to do: Mix a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and have your child gargle as many swigs as she can.
If your kiddo’s cough is dry and raspy, it could be caused by asthma or allergies. Try to remove as any irritants as you can from your home. Don’t wear perfume or use room fresheners; ban your dog or cat from your child’s room; remove stuffed animals (dust collectors) from the bed; and do not smoke in your home or anywhere near your child.
Know When to Call the Doctor
At-home remedies are great, but sometimes you need reinforcements. Here’s when to ring your pediatrician:
-- Your child has a barking cough (croup)
-- He has stridor (a noisy or musical sound) when breathing in
-- She makes a “whooping” sound when breathing in after coughing (pertussis; call 911 if you hear this sound in a baby less than 3 months old)
-- He’s wheezing when breathing out (unless you already have an asthma care plan from your doctor)
-- She has a fever of 102 degrees or higher (or has any fever and is less than 3 months old)
-- He’s coughing up blood
-- Her cough lasts for longer than two weeks
If your child is having great difficulty breathing that’s getting worse or his lips, face, or tongue have a blue or dusky color, call 911.
If your child has croup, an infection characterized by a loud, barking cough, you may want to take her outside (after you’ve taken her to the pediatrician, of course!). Cool night air is a time-tested remedy for the “barking seal” cough. And while some studies have cast doubt on the effectiveness of an outdoor stroll, try telling that to the millions of moms who’ve been quieting their childrens’ coughs by doing just that. A drive in the car with the windows cracked -- even if it’s cold (just bundle up) -- may do the trick, too.