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When the season changes, children become prone to cold accompanied by cough and sneezing. Irritation in the lining of the windpipe sets off a coughing fit.
Prolonged cough can be uncomfortable, especially for kids. While there’s no dearth of OTC medicines, it’s best to try out home remedies first.
Types of Cough
A cough is usually of different types, so it’s important to identify the type before taking remedial action. It can be classified into five distinct types:
1. Wet Cough
A wet cough is also known as a productive cough, wherein the mucus or phlegm is present in the respiratory tract. A wet cough is characterised by a wheezing sound. It may happen due to pneumonia, bronchitis, cold, or fever.
2. Dry Cough
This type of cough is a symptom of the common flu. It occurs due to infections in the lower respiratory tract such as bronchitis or asthma, and irritants such as dust or smoke. In dry cough, there is no phlegm.
3. Wheezing Cough
A wheezing cough is when airways are narrowed and forced to secrete mucus due to inflammation which clogs the small airways, a wheezing cough is typically characterised by a shrill whistling sound when breathing.
4. Croup Cough
Also known as barky cough, croup cough is caused by a viral infection which blocks the upper respiratory tract, resulting in a barking sound.
5. Whooping Cough
Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is caused by a contagious bacterial infection. The characteristics of whooping cough are similar to that of dry cough. However, this cough can last longer and result in a whooping sound.
Effective Home Remedies for Cough in Kids
Here are a few natural remedies for cough in children:
1. Get Your Child to Gargle
Perhaps the most common and simple method to provide relief from cough is gargling with warm water. It’s best to gargle at least thrice a day. You can also add a teaspoon of salt to the water.
2. Give Honey
Honey has antimicrobial agents that fight cold. The sweet taste of honey enhances saliva production, which in turn helps in thinning the mucus. Honey is helpful in relieving cough because of its various antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties too. Due to its viscous nature, it soothes the throat. An ideal way to administer honey is to mix a tablespoon of it in a glass of warm water and squeeze some fresh lemon juice into it.
However, avoid giving honey to infants below the age of one.
3. Give Ginger
Ginger is an excellent home remedy for cough as it is known to have antiviral properties. Although lozenges contain ginger, it’s best to administer ginger directly. Add honey to counteract the strong taste of ginger.
Give two tablespoons of the following mixture to get relief from cough:
- Mix ¼ teaspoon of crushed or grated ginger with the same quantity of cayenne pepper.
- Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and honey to this and add two tablespoons of water to make a syrup.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar
Known for its antibacterial properties, apple cider vinegar is an effective home remedy for dry cough in children. Apple cider vinegar can be mixed with crushed ginger to cure cough. Also, you can make your child take in the smell of vinegar as it is known to soothe a sore throat.
There’s a connection between the use of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar and food poisoning. Food poisoning in children is especially dangerous since their immune system is just developing. To limit risk, purchase only pasteurized apple cider vinegar.
5. Make Her Suck on a Lemon
Lemon boosts immunity as it has therapeutic properties. Like ginger, it’s used in lozenges that soothe a sore throat. Honey with lemon juice makes an ideal cough syrup.
6. Make Her Inhale Steam
Steam therapy is a good option, especially if your child has a blocked nose, accompanied by a wet cough. The warmth of steam will thin the mucus and make it flow out easily. You can administer steam in either of the following ways:
- Boil water in a bowl or a tub and add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to it. Allow your child to inhale the steam.
- Run hot water in the restroom. This will fill the room with steam.
7. Ensure She Gets Ample Rest
Adequate rest will help your child recover faster. The stress of attending school can slow down healing. Besides, staying at home will prevent your child’s classmates from contracting flu.
8. Use a Humidifier
When the weather is dry, it can create mucus in the throat, leading to irritation and dry cough. A humidifier helps to expel the mucus and provides relief from wet cough. Be sure to keep the humidifier clean to prevent mineral buildup and the growth of bacteria and moulds. Emptying the tank and drying all surfaces of the humidifier daily is one way to safely keep it clean.
9. Chicken Soup
Chicken soup has anti-inflammatory properties that provide relief from sore throat, cough and congestion.
10. Turmeric Milk
An age-old home remedy for instant relief from sore throat and cough – turmeric milk! Turmeric has antiseptic properties which can effectively treat a viral infection. Just add a teaspoon of turmeric to warm milk and give it to your child every night before bed.
11. Administer Cough Drops
Cough drops give temporary relief to a sore and scratchy throat. However, cough drops should not be administered to children under the age of three.
12. Use a Suction Bulb
You can also use a suction bulb to clear the mucus from your child’s nose. All you need to do is squeeze the bulb, put it into her nostril and release gently. You can repeat this after 2-3 hours. This remedy works wonders for 6-month old babies.
13. Administer Warm Saline Water or Saline Drops
Saline water drops is a tried-and-tested home remedy for easing dry cough in children. For best results, follow these steps:
- Add ½ teaspoon of salt to warm water and put two drops of the solution in your child’s nostrils. Ask your child to blow her nose immediately to remove the mucus.
15. Make Her Suck on a Popsicle
Sucking on a popsicle is a good way to relieve a scratchy throat. Give your child a sugar-free candy, popsicle or crushed ice to suck on if she is above the age of four.
16. Keep Your Child Hydrated
Giving fluids will ensure that toxins are flushed out from her body quickly. Fluids also thin the mucus.
17. Keep Her Head in an Upright Position
Keeping your child’s head in an upright position will assist breathing through a blocked nose. Place a pillow or two under her head so that it’s higher than the rest of her body. This will reduce the accumulation of mucus in the throat and prevent coughing fits, especially during sleep.
18. Make Her Blow Her Nose
Another simple way to clear mucus from the nostrils is to blow it out. Blowing the nose from time to time will ensure that the accumulated mucus in the nostrils is removed. However, blowing the nose too frequently or too forcefully could lead to swollen or bleeding nostrils. Hence, you should make your child do it carefully and only when necessary.
19. Focus on Hygiene
Coughing spreads viruses, hence it’s important to keep the surroundings clean. The best way to do this is to wash and change the bed linen, handkerchiefs, towels, etc. frequently. Get your child to wash her hands or use a hand sanitiser before eating food.
20. Aloe Vera
Amongst many other advantages, aloe vera also helps soothe a cough. Give a teaspoon of aloe vera juice combined with honey and clove powder twice a day to your child for best results.
21. Carom Seeds
Carom seeds have antibacterial properties, which can cure a cough and relieve congestion. Boil them in water with basil leaves, ginger powder, cloves, turmeric powder, and ground pepper powder. Let the mixture cool down and give it to your child.
22. Make Use of Red Onion Juice
One teaspoon of Allium cepa or red onion juice mixed with honey is good for treating sinuses, cold, allergies and coughing fit.
23. Herbal Decoction
Herbal decoction given in small doses can be very useful in treating cough. Here is how you can prepare a herbal decoction:
- Mix one spoon of cumin seeds, sweet flag and cilantro to one cup of boiling water.
- Simmer the liquid for 20 minutes and then strain it.
- Allow it to cool and give one teaspoon of the decoction post meals to help ease a cough.
24. Almonds With Orange Juice
Almonds are known to help ease out bronchial problems which include a cough. Blend a few teaspoons of ground almond with orange juice and give it to your child for relief from a cough.
25. Other Simple Techniques
- A slice of lemon with salt and pepper sprinkled on it when sucked can give relief from a cough.
- A mixture of honey with white pepper can also tone down the effect of a cough for your child.
26. Expose Her to Cool Air
It’s popularly believed that if a child is suffering from cough, exposing her to cold air can work wonders. If it’s winter, bundle up your little one and take her out for a walk. This way, your child will get a breath of fresh air and also some exercise. If doing this isn’t possible, open the refrigerator door and make your child inhale the cold air. This can help a coughing fit.
Diet to Prevent Cough in Children
Prevention is better than cure. While there are many home remedies to cure a cough, it’s better to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Include these foods in your child’s diet to keep her healthy when the seasons change:
- Green leafy vegetables such as spinach strengthen your child’s immune system.
- Root vegetables such as garlic and ginger improve the immune system.
- Hot milk with honey shields your little one from bacteria and viruses.
- Avoid giving your child junk or spicy, oily and unhealthy food.
- If your kid is prone to coughing, avoid food with high salt and sugar content as they increase mucus formation in the body.
- Healthy items such as whole wheat porridge, vegetable khichdi, buttermilk soup (kadhi), broccoli soup, beetroot soup, etc. are good for your kid.
- Warm pineapple juice mixed with honey prevents mucus formation.
Use these home remedies and provide a healthy diet coupled with a clean environment. Don’t smoke in the vicinity of your child, especially if she’s suffering from a cough. Keep her away from dusty and polluted areas. Ensure she washes her hands regularly, and more importantly, before consuming food.
While most of these remedies do not have side effects, some of them may not suit your child. If the cough shows no signs of going away, visit a paediatrician without further delay.