Dry Cough in Babies: Reasons, Treatment & Home Remedies

How to Deal With Dry Cough in Infants

Coughing in babies is very common. Irritants often enter the lungs while breathing, and in some cases, it may lead to a dry cough. Coughing is an effective means by which these irritants get thrown out of the lungs – it may result in a heckling sound and it can be uncomfortable for babies. A dry cough may irritate the baby’s lungs and throat.

What Is a Dry Cough?

A dry cough is a cough without any phlegm, mucus, or sputum. A dry cough is usually associated with an upper respiratory tract infection (nose and throat) which may cause medical conditions like cold or influenza. A dry cough under such conditions may worsen once the child stays in a warm room. In some cases, a dry cough may be associated with a lower respiratory tract infection that may cause bronchitis or pneumonia.

Mother giving syrup to her baby

What Causes 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 lead to dry cough in babies. Mentioned below are some of them:

1. Common Cold

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

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease or GERD affects babies as well. GERD occurs when the contents of the stomach make their way back up through the oesophagus. This may lead to vomiting, a 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 can lead to a dry cough. This condition is more evident in sensitive babies who react easily to strong chemical odours, cigarette smoke, or 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 can 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. Whooping cough is a contagious bacterial infection that affects the respiratory tract of infants. If your baby is suffering from this condition, you will notice stronger, forceful and persistent bouts of coughing. Your baby will also make a strange noise while coughing. Cough in this condition is extremely dry and may lead to choking threats in infants. Under severe bouts of whooping cough, you may notice tears or a bluish tint in your baby’s eyes, along with a protruding tongue.

Treatment for Dry Cough in Babies

The causative agents of a dry cough are many, and its treatment varies according to the symptoms. It is very important to follow the correct course of treatment for your baby’s dry cough. It is suggested that you visit a paediatrician for the same – he will examine your baby thoroughly and 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 the common cold. Home remedial measures are not only easily available but are also 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, 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 it. Though there are many over-the-counter medicines available for the treatment of GERD, it is sensible to go for the one 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 expose your baby a little less to the outdoors. Remember to use an artificial humidifier to keep the air moist for your baby during winters. Ensure that you clean the humidifier regularly as it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and germs. 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 in comfortable, weather-appropriate clothes as bouts of cough may make him sweat. Comfortable clothes will allow air circulation and also keep your baby’s temperature in check.

4. Treatment for Dry Cough Due to Influenza

If your baby develops a dry cough due to influenza, 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 consume ample fluids to battle the infection. If you are breastfeeding, it is recommended that you continue doing the same. If your baby has started on solids, 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, they will prescribe a course of antibiotics to your baby. In case your baby is less than 1-year-old, hospitalisation 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 conditions where 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 an oxygen mask to help your baby breathe better. Your baby’s symptoms, age, and condition will help your doctor decide the best-suited treatment.

Home Remedies for Dry Cough in Infants

The first thing that may occur in your mind as soon as you see your baby suffering from any ailment is giving him some age-old effective home remedy. Here, we shall be discussing some easy and effective home remedies that will help your child battle a dry cough. It is recommended that you take a heads up from your doctor before administering any home remedy. Your doctor will help you understand what ingredients may work best for your baby.

Following are some home remedial measures you can try for your baby.

From Birth to 6 Months

If your baby is under six months, you can 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 for dry cough. Keep feeding breast milk to your baby as and when required. Breast milk is rich in nutrients and provides antibodies to the baby to fight infections.

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. Place it on your baby’s pillow or crib. The anti-bacterial properties of garlic and carom seeds are effective in fighting cold and congestion.

3. Herbal Rub

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

4. Basil (Tulsi) and Coconut Oil

This is an effective remedy for dry cough in babies. Heat ¼ cup of coconut oil and add crushed basil leaves to it. Then apply this warm oil on your baby’s chest, back, throat, and feet.

5. Nasal Saline Drops

Saline drops are very effective in clearing the baby’s nose. 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 of warm, filtered water and add ½ tablespoon salt in it and use it as and when needed.

From 6-10 Months

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

1. Cumin Water

Cumin seeds have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve cough. To make cumin water, boil a glass of water and add 1-2 tsp of cumin seeds in it. Let it boil and cover it with a lid. Let the decoction cool down a bit. Strain it and feed it to your baby several times a day. This remedy is very effective in treating dry cough in young children and babies.

2. Carrot Juice

Carrot juice

Carrot juice can also help treat cough and cold in babies. Take fresh carrot juice and add some warm water to it. Feed your baby carrot juice to provide some relief.

4. Mustard Oil Massage

Heat some mustard oil in a pan. To it, add some nigella sativa (kalonji) and methi dana (fenugreek seeds). Strain it properly and massage your baby’s chest, back, and feet with this oil.

5. Vapour Rub

You may apply vapour rub on the baby’s feet, Chest, back to provide him relief from cough.

From 10-12 Months

If your baby is between 10 and 12 months of age, any of the following can be used as an effective dry cough remedy:

1. Infused Coconut Oil

Take 1 betel stem, 3 to 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

A baby drinking fluids

Get your baby to drink more fluids, as adequate hydration can prevent the thickening of mucus. You can also give some warm beverage such as soups in relieving sore throat and loosening of the mucus.

4. Black Pepper, Cumin, and Jaggery

Take one cup water and add a pinch of cumin seeds, half a spoon of black pepper and 1-2 spoons of jaggery, some fenugreek seeds and a few basil leaves. Boil all these ingredients together for about 10 minutes. Give 1-2 teaspoons of this concoction to your baby not more than once a day.

5. Okra Soup

This soup aids in fighting cold and cough symptoms. Take some fresh lady’s fingers (okra) 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

The following tips may comfort your baby during dry cough bouts:

  • Ensure that your baby gets a goodnight sleep by maintaining a calm and quiet environment in his room.
  • 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.
  • Do not give cough and cold medication to kids under the age of 4 unless specified by your doctor.

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 condition in the best possible way.

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

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