Dry cough causes pain and interferes with rest. Unfortunately, over-the-counter remedies designed to treat it aren’t approved for use in infants. On the bright side, a number of home remedies may combat dry cough in babies. Consult the child’s doctor for a cough that lasts longer than a few days or starts to get better and then becomes worse.
Optimize the Infant's Environment
Open a window to introduce fresh air to the infant’s room. Consider a fan for a stuffy or windowless room.
Remind household members not to smoke indoors or outdoors near doors and windows. Refrain from using perfumes, aerosol sprays and other products that might exacerbate the infant’s cough.
Keep the room comfortably cool and dress the infant in loose, breathable clothing, changing as needed. Coughing is hard work for an infant and can leave your baby feeling hot and sweaty. Heavy clothing will make the child feel worse and promote fluid loss.
Moisturize the Infant's Airways
Add a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer to the infant’s room, advises the American Academy of Pediatrics. Bacteria and mold often grow in humidifier filters. Clean the filter regularly or insert a fresh one before using the device.
Provide frequent feedings. Fluid in breast milk or formula soothes irritated tissue in the throat and helps maintain adequate hydration.
Use over-the-counter saline nasal spray to moisturize the infant’s nasal passages, followed by bulb suction to withdraw excess fluids or dessicated mucus.
Relieve pain due to dry cough with acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the dose recommended for your child’s age and weight. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, ibuprofen should be reserved for infants over six months while acetaminophen is appropriate for all ages.
Draw shades and turn off lights. Remind other household members to be quiet.
Hold or rock the infant, while speaking soothingly or playing soft music in the background. Infants with dry cough are often fussier than normal and have difficulty falling asleep. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that an infant who doesn't want to be held or who becomes lethargic be evaluated in the emergency department.
Never treat an infant’s dry cough with honey, warns the AAP. Honey may contain Clostridium botulinum spores—the bacteria that causes botulism. Spores that are easily destroyed in the gastrointestinal tract of older children and adults sometimes survive and produce serious or fatal disease in infants.
For dry cough that interferes with breathing, call 911. Signs that the infant is in trouble include fast breathing; labored breathing; blue-tinge around the mouth, nose or fingertips; and decreased responsiveness.