A Guide for Treating Your Child’s Cough
Any parent knows a child’s cough can make you feel helpless at 3 a.m. and keep the entire family from being well-rested. And doling out the medicine can escalate into a wrestling match that ends with you wondering about the dangers of giving more due to spillage. Fortunately, a little information can reduce the household stress caused by this common problem.
Children catch six to 10 colds a year, and cough is a major symptom. In fact, it’s estimated to be the symptom that most commonly prompts patients to see a doctor.
“A cough is a symptom, not a disease,” says Dr. Jim LaValle, a clinical pharmacist, author of Green Immunity Boosters, and founder of LaValle Metabolic Institute.
“Among the many mechanisms of defense and adaptation we have, coughing is one of the most misunderstood. In healthy people, it is a very useful reflex that keeps our air ducts clear from particles or excessive mucus so our breathing is protected,” says LaValle. “However, not only does it spread germs but it also interrupts sleep. This further weakens the immune system, making us more vulnerable to a secondary infection.”
LaValle offers parents some advice for treating their kid’s cough.
Stay hydrated and settle down. To start, parents can encourage kids to drink water or other healthy liquids to thin out mucous secretions, thereby soothing a cough, and discourage kids from over-exerting themselves when they have fever, aches or a cough that produces phlegm.
Honey. Grandma was right according to a study published in the December 2007 “Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.”1 A teaspoon of honey before bed seems to calm children’s coughs and helps them sleep more soundly. Honey coats the throat to soothe irritation and is rich in infection-fighting antioxidants. It also spurs saliva production, which can help thin out mucus. Refrain from giving honey to children younger than 1 year of age.
Opt for an expectorant, rather than a suppressant. Coughs associated with colds should be treated with an expectorant to clear out mucus. A productive cough is the body’s way of clearing out mucus. An expectorant encourages the body to get rid of the phlegm quickly and get over the coughing. Suppressants on the other hand suppress the body’s natural desire to heal.
Read the labels. Manufacturers of decongestants, antihistamines and cough suppressants voluntarily relabeled these medications, instructing parents not to use them in children younger than 4 years of age. The move followed a U.S. Food and Drug Administration panel questioning the safety and efficacy of these medications’ use in children younger than 6 years of age. “One of the safest and tastiest over-the-counter options I recommend for kids is a cough syrup that combines honey and homeopathic medicines, Children’s Chestal®,” says LaValle. “It doesn’t contain any of the ingredients in question by the FDA. Instead of working against the body as a suppressant, it works naturally with the body to make all types of common coughs more productive for a speedier recovery.”
Know when to see a doctor. Mostly coughs subside on their own within a week to 10 days. Coughs that linger longer or are associated with coughing up colored phlegm or blood, wheezing, temperatures higher than 101 degrees and drenching night sweats can be symptoms of a more serious illness.
1. Paul, Ian M., Jessica Beiler, Amyee McMonagle, Michele L. Shaffer, Laura Duda, and Cheston M. Berlin Jr. “Effect of Honey, Dextromethorphan, and No Treatment on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents.” Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. Vol. 161.No. 12 (December 2007): 1140-1146.