How to Stop a Cough in a Child

This page gives information on how to stop a cough in a child and on the latest research findings on the effectiveness of over-the-counter cough medicines.

To read more on the causes of cough in children, click here.

Ads

Simple Measures for a Non-specific Cough

If your child is coughing, and it is a non-specific cough, then the treatment is just simple measures such as:

  • ensure your child is not exposed to tobacco smoke. If you can't give up smoking, at least ensure you smoke outside the house and you might want to consider wearing a particular smoking jacket that you remove once you've finished your cigarette as the smoke and its ill effects will linger on clothing
  • if your child has a tickle in her throat, give her:
    • a sip of water
    • a sip of honey water
    • honey lozenges
  • your child probably has a viral upper respiratory tract infection (read more) so keep her fluids up so she doesn't get dehydrated

If your child has a specific cause of cough, the answer to "how to stop a cough" will depend on that cause. For example, antibiotics will be necessary for a pneumonia - read more.

Back to list

Advertisement

Should I use over-the-counter cough medicine for my child's cough?

The short answer is "no".

The research evidence shows no benefit from over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines over that you get from dummy medication (placebo). So any benefit you may see is probably unrelated to the medicine.

Not only that, over-the-counter cough medicines are commonly involved in childhood poisonings and are potentially dangerous.

There have been reported deaths in young children from over-the-counter cough and cold medications. There are strong recommendations from evidence from the CDC (Center for Disease Control, US) that children under 2 years of age should not be given over-the-counter cough and cold medications because there is no evidence that they work and they have caused death in young children.

So when I'm asked "how to stop a cough in a child", I say that it's best to save your money and just try simple measures for cough in your child. Non-specific cough will eventually improve by itself.

Back to list


References

  • Chang et al. Cough in Children:definitions and clinical evaluation. MJA 2006.184(8):398-403
  • Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2004 Oct 18;(4):CD001831.
  • Schroeder K, Fahey T. Should we advise parents to administer over the counter cough medicines for acute cough? Systematic review of randomised controlled trials. Arch Dis Child. 2002 Mar;86(3):170-5.
  • CDC.Infant Deaths Associated with Cough and Cold Medications. MMWR Jan 12 2007. Vol 56 (1): 1-4
  • Smith SM, Schroeder K, Fahey T. Over-the-counter medications for acute cough in children and adults in ambulatory settings. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008. Issue 1. Art No:CD001831. DOI 10.1002/14651858.CD001831.pub3
Ads

To go to the top of the How to Stop a Cough page, click here

To go to the Cough page, click here

To go to the main Breathing Problem page, click here

To return to the Home page, click here


Last reviewed 24 May 2010

We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health
information:
verify here.

Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



Special Offer
A must have for new parents

Baby sleep

Essential Baby Sleep
By Dr Maud


We're so excited to announce our first Children Book

The Special and Talented Dog Show
To order click here

The second book published is called

Flying Things

This is aimed at a pre-school audience and is a rhyming story.  You can buy by clicking here

To read more about our children's books, click here



We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.


Visitors Say

Thanks for your "straight to the point" advice! I am very happy that you decided to add your wisdom to the internet for all to read. You made a very worrisome toddler's fever day into something a lot calmer.
Fred, Sweden

Excellent website. Plain english - reassuring and direct. Great resource - thank you.
David, Australia

Dear Dr.Maud, I had to write a thank you note for all the work you put into this site to make our life easier! We had many questions and worries but we found all the answers here very easily. You helped us to find a way to make our little boy eat again and calmed our worried minds when he was sick.. So much useful information, I recommend your website to all moms and dads I know. Thank you so much, you are fantastic! Have a wonderful day! :)
Sophie, Singapore

Thank you so much. I have taken ... to three different Dr.'s and you are the first to answer my questions in a manner that I can understand. You explained everything in English for once, and told me things that none of the other Dr.'s did. Thank you again. I really appreciate your help.
Machelle, United States