How to Deal with Dry Cough in Infants

A small baby coughing

A cough is very common in babies, and it is one of the effective means to throw out irritants from the lungs. The irritants often enter lungs while breathing and in certain cases may lead to a dry cough. A dry cough may result in heckling sound and can be uncomfortable for babies. Such kind of a cough may irritate the lungs and throat of babies.

What is a Dry Cough?

A dry cough is a cough without any phlegm, mucus, or sputum. While your baby is coughing, you can notice a loud empty noise. A dry cough is usually associated with upper respiratory tract infection (nose and throat) which may cause medical conditions like cold or influenza. A dry cough under such condition may worsen once the child sleeps or if he stays in a warm room. In some cases, a dry cough may be associated with lower respiratory tract infection that may cause bronchitis or pneumonia.

Mother giving syrup to her baby

What Causes a Dry Cough in Babies?

If your baby is suffering from a dry cough, it can be very uncomfortable and painful. There are many reasons that may lead to a dry cough in babies. Mentioned below are some of the reasons that may cause a dry cough in babies:

1. Common Cold

Common cold may cause a dry cough in babies. Although a dry cough is not the first symptom of a common cold, it appears during the last stages of cold. Your baby may have mild and wet cough bouts in the initial stage of the common cold. As the cold progresses, the cough bouts become drier. A common cold is a viral infection and thus may cause a tickling feeling in your baby’s throat. Home remedial measures work best to soothe your child’s cold and cough.

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

GERD or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease may affect babies. GERD occurs when the contents of your baby’s stomach make their way back up through the oesophagus. This may lead to vomiting, burning sensation, or spitting up. The acid may irritate your baby’s throat resulting in a dry cough. There are many over-the-counter medicines available to cure this condition. However, it is suggested to consult your doctor before administering any medicine to your baby.

3. Environmental Irritants

Sometimes your baby may react to environmental irritants that may lead to a dry cough. This condition is more evident in sensitive babies who react easily to strong chemical odours, cigarette smoke, overly dry and hot air. Keep your child away from such environmental agents. To combat a dry cough resulting from hot weather conditions, you can use a humidifier in your baby’s room.

Girl with a runny nose

4. Influenza

The symptoms of flu or influenza may appear to be the same, but in young children and babies, these symptoms can be severe. Influenza begins with a dry cough, similar to the common cold. As influenza progresses, you will notice phlegm along with the cough.

5. A Whooping Cough

Whooping cough or pertussis may affect your baby. A whooping cough is a contagious bacterial infection that affects the respiratory tract of infants. If your baby is suffering from this condition, then you may notice stronger, forceful and persistent bouts of cough. You will also hear a strange noise that your baby makes while coughing. A cough in this condition is extremely dry and may lead to choking threats in infants. Under severe bouts of a whooping cough, you may notice tears or bluish tint in your baby’s eyes and a protruding tongue.

Treatment for a Dry Cough in Babies

The causative agents of a dry cough are many, and so its treatment varies according to the symptoms. It is very important that a correct course of treatment should be followed for your baby’s dry cough. It is suggested that you visit a paediatrician; he will examine your baby thoroughly and then decide the best-suited treatment. Following are some of the treatment options that may help in treating your baby:

1. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to Common Cold

Opting for home remedies is the best way to cure a dry cough resulting from common cold. Home remedial measures are not only easily available but are extremely safe for young children and babies. However, it is advisable to consult a doctor before giving anything to your baby.

2. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to GERD

If the cause of your baby’s dry cough is diagnosed as GERD then your doctor will examine your baby thoroughly to know the exact cause of the same. Once your doctor knows the cause, he will prescribe some medicines to treat the gastroesophageal reflux disease. Though there are many over-the-counter medicines available for the treatment of GERD but go for the one which is suggested by the doctor.

3. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to Environmental Irritants

The most effective way to ward off a dry cough due to environmental irritants is to keep your baby away from them. However, during winters make sure to use artificial humidifiers to keep the air moist. It is important to keep the humidifiers clean, lest they may become breeding grounds for bacteria and germs. Also, refrain from using sprays, deodorants, or room fresheners that may leave a residue in the air and cause irritation to your baby. Dress up your baby is comfortable clothes (according to the weather) as bouts of cough may make your baby sweat. Comfortable clothes will allow air circulation and also keeps your baby’s temperature in place.

4. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to Influenza

If your baby develops a dry cough due to influenza then antibiotics won’t solve the problem. Your doctor may suggest adequate rest and a healthy diet for your child. It is very important for your child to stay hydrated and take ample fluids to battle the infection. If you are breastfeeding, then it is recommended to continue doing the same. In case you have started giving liquid and foods other than breastmilk to your baby then you can also give him warm homemade soup or fresh fruit juices.

5. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to Whooping Cough

Once your doctor establishes that Pertussis is the cause of a dry cough then your doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to your baby. In case your baby is less than a-year-old, hospitalization may be suggested to overcome any complication. Choking is a common complication that babies experience during a bout of whooping cough. Therefore, proper medical supervision proves helpful under such circumstances. Your baby will be kept in a separate ward or in isolation as whooping cough is extremely contagious. Under critical condition or when your baby is unable to breathe, your doctor may administer corticosteroid medication. This medicine will reduce the risk of choking. The doctor may also make use of oxygen mask to help your baby breathe better.

These were some of the suggested treatment options that may be recommended by your doctor. Your baby’s symptoms, age, and condition will help your doctor to decide the best-suited treatment for your baby.

Home Remedies for a Dry Cough in Infants

The first thing that may pop into your head as soon as you see your baby suffering from any ailment is to go for some age-old effective home remedy. Here, we shall be discussing some easy and effective home remedies that may help your child to battle dry cough. It is recommended that you take a head up from your doctor before starting with any home remedy. Your doctor will help you understand what ingredients may work best for your baby. Following are the home remedies that you can try for your baby:

From Birth to 6 Months

If your baby is under six months, then you may make use of the following home remedies to ward off a dry cough:

1. Mother’s Milk

For a baby under six months of age, mother’s milk is the best home remedy to treat a dry cough. Keep feeding breast milk to your baby as and when required. Mother’s milk is very rich in nutrients and also provides antibodies to the baby to fight infections.

Nasal Saline Drops: Saline drops are very effective in clearing baby’s nose. You may put a few drops in each nostril by tilting your baby’s head backwards. You can make saline drops at home too. Take 8 to 10 tablespoons warm filtered water and add ½ tablespoon salt in it.

2. Garlic And Carom Seeds

Take a few garlic cloves and 2-3 spoons of carom seeds and roast them in a pan. Put these roasted spices in a muslin cloth and make a pouch of it. Place this pouch on your baby’s pillow or crib. The anti-bacterial properties of garlic and carom seeds are effective in fighting cold and congestion.

Carom seeds in a bowl

3. Herbal Rub

You can make a herbal rub with mustard oil, carom seeds, and garlic. The warming properties of mustard oil and anti-bacterial properties of garlic and carom prove beneficial in combating congestion. Heat ¼ cup mustard oil in a pan and add two garlic cloves, and half a teaspoon of carom seeds into it. Remove it from heat after it turns brown. Apply this warm oil on your baby’s chest and feet.

4. Basil (Tulsi) and Coconut Oil

This is an effective remedy to treat a dry cough in babies. Take ¼ cup of coconut oil and warm it. Add crushed basil leaves to it. Apply this warm oil on your baby’s chest, back, throat, and feet.

From 6-10 Months

If your baby is six months or older then the following home remedy may work for him:

1. Cumin Water

To make cumin water all you need is 1 to 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds and a glass of water. Put both the ingredients in a pan and bring it to boil. Once the water starts boiling, cover the pan with a lid and let it boil for a few minutes. Let the decoction cool down a bit. Strain it and let your baby sip this water several times a day. This remedy is very effective in treating dry cough in young children and babies.

2. Turmeric Paste

Make turmeric paste by adding few drops of water in turmeric. Apply this paste on your baby’s torso, feet, and forehead to provide relief from a cough and cold.

3. Carrot Juice

Carrot juice is good for treating cough and cold in babies. Take fresh carrot juice and add some warm water to it. Make your baby sip carrot juice to provide relief from cough and cold.

Carrot juice

4. Mustard Oil Massage

Take mustard oil and heat it in a pan. Add some Nigella Sativa (kalonji seeds) to it. Massage your baby’s chest, back, feet and under the nose to provide comfort during cough and cold.

5. Vapour Rub

You may apply vapour rub on baby’s feet to provide relief from a cough.

From 10-12 Months

If your baby is 10 to 12 months of age, any of following may be used as an effective dry cough remedy for child

1. Infused Coconut Oil

Take 1 betel stem, 3to 4 basil (tulsi) leaves and 1 pearl onion; warm all these ingredients in half a cup of coconut oil. Add a pinch of camphor after turning off the heat. Apply this infused oil on your baby’s chest, back and throat.

2. Coconut and Camphor Oil

Heat coconut oil and add a pinch of camphor after taking it off the heat. Use it to massage your baby to cure cough and cold.

3. Increase Fluid Intake

Help your baby to drink more fluids as adequate hydration stops the thickening of the mucus. Choosing warmer beverages such as soups helps in relieving sore throat and loosening the mucus.

Baby drinking water from mother's hands

4. Black Pepper, Cumin, and Jaggery

Take one cup water and add a pinch of cumin seeds, half a spoon black pepper and 1-2 spoons of jaggery. Boil all these ingredients together for about 10 minutes. You may give 1 to 2 teaspoons of this concoction only once a day to your baby.

5. Lady Finger Soup

This soup aids in fighting cold and cough symptoms. You may take fresh ladyfingers and chop them. Boil them in water for about 10 minutes and strain. Give the liquid to your baby as soup.

These home remedies will surely work. However, if you notice that your baby’s symptoms still persist, seek medical help.

Tips to Keep Your Child Comfortable

Following tips may help your child feel comforted during dry cough bouts:

  • If you have not started giving your baby any solid foods, then the best thing is to breastfeed your baby as much as you can.

  • Help your baby sleep better by creating a calm and quiet environment.

  • You may try to rock and pat your baby during coughing bouts to ease the pain and discomfort.

  • Don’t leave your baby alone for long as severe bouts of dry coughs may lead to choking hazards.

With proper care and medical attention, you can help your baby recover from a dry cough. You may also get in touch with your baby’s doctor and know about various ways of dealing with this medical condition in the best possible way.

Also Read: Cough in babies – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment