Warnings About Cough Medicine for Toddlers
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has issued warnings to parents to never give children under the age of 2 cough medicine (unless directed to do so by their doctor). The American Academy of Pediatrics supports this and echoes the warning.
Cough Medicine Use in Children
The use of cough medicines have not been proven to be effective in children under the age of 6 and their effectiveness is under review by the FDA. The medicines may prolong a child's illness instead of helping. There is also a greater risk for life threatening side effects than there is with older patients if dosing instructions are not followed carefully.
A toddler with a cough can benefit from a few simple comforting measures to ease a cough. A cool-mist humidifier in a child's room at night can help, as can raising the head of a child's bed. Placing a few towels under a crib mattress to slightly elevate the head or giving an older toddler an extra pillow to raise your child's head may help with a cough.
Steam can also be of help with a cough. Run hot water in your shower and close the door. Bring your toddler into the bathroom and allow him to breathe in the steam. Cold air can also help. Open a window or go for a walk and let your child breathe in the cold air. Children older than 1 year of age can be given honey to ease the cough. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 1/2 tsp. for ages 2 to 5. Children under age 1 should not be given honey due to the risk of botulism.
Many parents have found that taking simple comforting measures has worked for them and eased their child's cough. However, it is always important to discuss with your pediatrician what her recommendations may be.
Give your child 1/2 tsp honey every six to eight hours. The honey will naturally soothe and quiet the child's cough.
Offer your child different types of beverages, including water, oral rehydrating solution, such as Pedialyte, and diluted fruit juice. The liquids will prevent dehydration and will also thin out the mucus, making it easier for the child to cough it up.
Place a vaporiser or humidifier in the child's bedroom. The humidifier moistens the air and child's respiratory system, allowing the child to more productively cough up mucus. A vaporiser releases soothing mentholated vapours into the air, which will soothe the child's productive cough.
Offer the child a bowl of hot chicken broth or chicken soup. The warm liquid will help soothe the child's throat and cough.
Cover your 3-year-old's chest and neck with a thin layer of mentholated chest rub, such as Vick's VapoRub. These salves contain ingredients such as camphor and eucalyptus that will soothe the child's cough and are most effective at night when the child is attempting to sleep.
Contact your child's doctor if the cough lasts longer than 10 days, if the child seems lethargic, refuses food or liquids, or has blood in his mucus.
Avoid the use of over-the-counter cough suppressants or antihistamines in children under the age of 6. As of 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends that no children under the age of 4 take over-the-counter cough medications that are intended for older children and adults.
Types of coughs
Kids who suffer from excessive night coughs may have productive, non-productive, barky and/or croupy sounding nighttime coughs. Productive coughs commonly result from infections such as the flu, bronchitis, colds and RSV. To distinguish if your child has a productive nighttime cough, you will be able to hear congestion making a rattling noise in their chest when coughing. Non-productive nighttime coughing will sound dry and raspy. Barky sounding coughs at night usually signify a croup infection that flares at night and is distinguished by a cough that resembles a seal barking. All types of nighttime coughing in children may be accompanied by wheezing and/or gasping for air as airways are more sensitive and irritable at night.
Over-the-counter cough syrups and medicines may provide slight relief from night coughing, but will not treat the underlying cause of excessive coughing. Unless your child is over the age of four, do not use cough syrups or medication to treat coughing without consulting your paediatrician. Avoid using cough drops to treat coughing in younger children which can pose a risk of choking.
Coughing in kids tends to flare at night because mucus drains from the nose and sinuses into the throat, and airways are highly sensitive. Excessive night coughing in kids can be treated at home by turning the hot water on in your shower and letting it run for 15 to 20 minutes. Sit with your child in the bathroom with door shut and allow the steam to penetrate and sooth your child's chest, which will reduce night coughing. Keeping the air in your kid's room moist will also reduce excessive night coughing. Use a vaporiser to increase the humidity level in your kids room and add essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary or peppermint to create soothing vapours within the steam. Vapour rubs may also provide relief for nighttime cough. Rub a small amount of the vapour rub on your child's chest and dress them in warm, tight clothing to increase the vapour effects and relieve excessive nighttime coughing.
If your child is suffering from excessive night coughing that is not resolved by home remedies, you may need to seek guidance from your paediatrician. All types of coughing are often successfully and promptly treated with steroid medications. Aerosol nebuliser treatments are also very powerful and effective at managing excessive nighttime coughing. Your paediatrician may also recommend a prescription strength cough syrup to remedy excessive night cough.
In rare cases, excessive coughing during the day and night may be the result of aspiration. Aspiration, which tends to occur in babies and very young children, is when an object has been swallowed or inhaled and is stuck in the throat or lungs. Babies and kids who have aspirated usually suffer from excessive coughing that lasts longer than a week but have no symptoms of a cold or infection. Objects that have been aspirated and are not treated can cause an infection environment in the lungs and develop into pneumonia. In aspiration cases that turn into pneumonia, surgery is most likely necessary to remove the object from the lungs.