Your kid's cough: what you need to know

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A kid's cough can be tiresome business for both your child and you. We bring you great information about children's coughs, including 5 home remedies and when you should take your child to the doctor. Keep reading!

It must be the extra-dry weather we’ve been having in Singapore over the last few months. My kids have been sick with coughs and colds for what feels like forever. It’s awful seeing them sick, especially my two-year-old who, with his limited communication, cannot express his discomfort to me properly.

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Cough remedies for kids: A kid’s cough – wet or dry – can be equally annoying for both the child and her parents.

For me as a mum, the worst part of dealing with a cold is the dry or wet cough that more often than not accompanies it and continues way after the runny nose, sneezing and fever are over.

A kid’s cough — whether dry or phlegmy — can be terribly irritating for a child. A dry cough is usually at its worst at night, and will keep your child (and you) up until the wee hours of the morning.

A wet or phlegmy cough can be as bad, maybe worse, because of the risk of it turning into bronchitis if the phlegm isn’t expelled.

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Tip: if your child is coughing, prevent germs from spreading to others by having him wash his hands often with warm, soapy water, cover his mouth while coughing, or wear a kid-friendly face mask.

There are plenty of over-the-counter cough medicines designed both for your kid’s cough — but many of these are a nasty concoction of chemicals that you would rather not have in your child’s system.

Why should you avoid over-the-counter medicine for your kid’s cough?

Medical experts say that kids’ cough and cold medicines don’t really help and may pose a risk (although small) of side effects, especially to young children. In relation to cough medicines, experts recommend avoiding:

  • Cough suppresants that contain the chemical dextromethorphan or DM; and
  • Cough expectorants that contain guaifenesin.

While you might not be familiar with the names of these drugs, you can check the label of a cough syrup box and you’ll see that these are the the active ingredients in many brands of kids’ cough medicines commonly available in pharmacies.

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As tempting as it is it give kids an over-the-counter cough syrup, medical experts suggest not to, as cough syrups do not help the cough and can have side effects.

A problem with these medicines is that the effects are usually only studied in adults and then applied to children, even though adults and kids may not react to these medicines in the same way.

What’s the danger of using these medicines for your kid’s cough?

  • You could accidently give a child a dose that’s too high.
  • Parents could use two different brands at the same time, not realising they contain the same ingredients.
  • Parents could measure the wrong dose by mistake if they get up in the middle of the night to soothe a coughing child.

Medical experts strongly discourage parents from giving kids under 4 years old over-the-counter cough medicines because of the various risks they pose. These medicines neither cure the cough nor lessen its duration.

Also, the danger with cough suppressants is that these may prevent your child’s body from expelling phlegm, which could then accumulate and turn into bronchitis or pneumonia.

You can easily help soothe your kid’s cough and the discomfort associated with it using much gentler home remedies. Find out what these are on the next page!

Nasty chemicals are really unnecessary to soothe your kid’s cough. All you need are a few inexpensive, easily available ingredients to bring about relief.

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Honey is a great natural remedy for your kid’s cough.

1. Honey

Delicious honey can actually be more effective than over-the-counter cough syrups for reducing the frequency and severity of nighttime coughing in kids, according to research. Honey is full of natural antimicrobial agents and antioxidants, which can help the body fight off cold germs. Honey also stimulates salivation (because it is sweet), which can help thin excessive mucus and/or soothe a dry throat and cough.

Experts recommend:

  • A half-teaspoon of honey to children aged 2 to 5.
  • 1 teaspoon to children aged 6 to 11.
  • 2 teaspoons to those 12 and older.

Never give honey to babies younger than 1 because of the risk of infant botulism, a potentially life-threatening disease.

2. Vicks

It’s not just an old wives’ tale — it really works! Rub a thick layer of Baby or regular Vicks on the soles of your child’s feet and cover with socks. It works a treat in especially stopping those dry, nighttime coughs that keep kids and parents up all night!

3. Steam

If you don’t have a steam vaporiser, there’s always the old home remedy of going into your bathroom and turning on the hot water to produce steam. The steam will help ease coughing fits. If you do have a steam vaporiser, keep it on in the night to add moisture and humidity into the air, which will help loosen your kid’s congestion. Add some menthol or camphor essential oil to the vaporiser for even better results.

4. Chicken soup

Your own mother was right to give you plenty of chicken soup or broth when you had a cough and cold as a child. Chicken soup actually has anti-inflammatory properties that, according to medical experts, slow down the movement of immune system cells that contribute to the body’s inflammatory response. It also speeds up the movement of mucus, which can help relieve congestion.

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Chicken soup is a great natural remedy for a kid’s cough!

5. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

While it’s best to take your child to a qualified TCM practitioner to get a proper and accurate assessment, there are still a few things you can do that are based on TCM to help your child’s cough. Congee or chicken soup that includes certain herbs (again, please consult with your TCM practitioner to find out what these are) can help with easing a cough.

Pear tea can also help a dry cough: just cut up 1 pear (ideally a snow pear) and simmer the pieces for about 15 minutes. Then, let your child drink the “tea.” It’s simple, delicious and effective!

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There are times when you must show your kid’s cough to the doctor.

When should you take your child to a doctor?

You should take your child to a doctor if:

  • He has a cough and breathing difficulty;
  • He has high fever along with the cough;
  • You think your child may be choking on something (straight to Emergency);
  • The cough persists for longer than 4 weeks; or
  • He has severe coughing followed by a “whoop” sound as this could indicate whooping cough and needs immediate medical attention.

Parents, do you have your own tried and tested methods for relieving your child’s cough? Share these with us by leaving a comment.

References: 

http://inhealth.cnn.com/

www.parenting.com/article/a-guide-to-kids-coughs

http://paulinehwang.ca/2013/02/20/treating-colds-flus-and-coughs-with-tcm-a-ridiculously-well-kept-secret/

www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/cold-guide/kids-cold-medicines-new-guidelines

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