Children's Cough remedies


A cough is a body’s way of clearing the delicate air passages of irritants, most usually mucous. The mucous has been produced as a sticky substance to carry viruses, bacteria, inhaled particles (i.e. dust, pollen) and dead white blood cells out of the body. It is best to not use cough medicines because they interfere with the natural protective mechanism of the lungs to rid themselves of mucous. If repressed, a cough can lead to deeper infections. Or it will take longer for the child to get rid of the cough completely. Utilizing homeopathy aids the body in ridding itself of the cough and making the child more comfortable. Coughs can be hard to deal with because of a large variety of symptoms. There are many things to take into account. Be patient! Try not to get discouraged; you may need to evaluate the case two or three times. You may need to repeat a remedy a few times a day over the course of a few days. A neglected persistent cough can lead to or indicate other problems, so it is advisable to get an evaluation by your health care practitioner, if the cough is not resolving.

   The American Academy of Pediatrics states that over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to children under the age of 6 years old, because they do not work and can have dangerous side effects. There are warning labels on these products which state that they should not be given to children under the age of 2 years old.

A chest infection can lead to various other more serious conditions. Fever is associated with all of these at some point. (Look to fever section below for further indications and verification of the right remedy). A course of antibiotics is the preferred orthodox treatment. Even if the condition is viral, doctors want to prevent opportunistic bacteria from colonising in the already compromised lungs. The viruses and bacteria take hold of the body because of susceptibility due to being run down, highly stressed out, being severely depressed or deeply grieved, being out of balance or sleep deprived. Chest infections can quickly spin off into serious conditions in those who are hereditarily susceptible, weak (especially an infant), a teen who smokes, or being on some long term medications. It is most significant how the body signals its distress by producing an individual set of symptoms. The diagnosis “Chest infection” is generally applied to a cough with mucus in the lungs and is usually the result of not taking care in the initial stages of a common cold. It is really important to read “CALL YOUR HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER IF” section below so you know when to seek help if there is a serious turn of events in chest complaints.

A little anatomy lesson here so you can tell where the cough is originating: 

Pharynx The back of the tongue where it turns and goes into the throat.

LarynxThe throat down to the throat pit, just below the Adam’s apple, that is called the voice box.

TracheaThe wind pipe just before the lungs.

BronchusThe main tube into the lungs.

BronchiolesThe smaller tubes on both sides that carry the air in and out of the lungs.

Croup – Croup is an inflammation of the larynx, trachea and sometimes into the bronchus. Because of swollen mucous membranes, the air passages become narrow. This gives the cough the “croupy, metallic, barking” sound. (Think of a high-pitched and hoarse dog barking or a barking seal). The cough is sometimes described as the sound of a barking seal. It is usually brought on by a cold or influenza in children 6 months to 4 years old. It usually starts with hoarseness. Croup may or may not be accompanied by fever.  It often starts suddenly around midnight. Child usually wakes in a panic because they are having trouble breathing. Then they begin coughing. If the cough is severe, they may gag or choke. It is usually much worse at night and less severe during the day. Croup requires careful watching in the very young because the symptoms can change rapidly. To ensure that the airways are kept open, prop the child up with a pillow. Make sure that fluid intake is kept high. You may warmly wrap the child (i.e. hat, mittens, socks, completely covered in warmth) and take them into the cool night air for about five minutes. This reduces swelling in the airways.  Do not take them out if it is bitter cold, as this can shock the lungs. A cool mist vaporizer in the child’s room can also be helpful. If the child has been coughing and gagging for more than 24 hours despite initial treatment, call your health care practitioner. A child, who has croup several times or does not get rid of the cough in between bouts, needs to be evaluated by your health care practitioner. Occasionally a child will not respond to indicated remedies and the symptoms of croup become so alarming that hospital becomes the only course to take. If there are no results, call your health care practitioner. See #13 in the “Call Your Healthcare Practitioner If” section and inform yourself about epiglottis.

As stated above, croup often starts suddenly around midnight. This indicates Aconitum as an initial remedy, but there are other symptoms that point to it as well: heat; anxiety; restlessness; hoarseness; cough is dry and barking (like a seal); short difficult breathing. One dose (2 pellets) will often ease the symptoms immediately. If symptoms persist repeat in ½ hour. If there are no results, and the child’s breathing sounds harsh, is becoming more laboured, and the cough is persisting, give a dose of Spongia Tosta. Wait another ½ hour. If your child is not asleep by now, and the breathing is still not easy with continued coughing, give a dose of Hepar Sulph.  However, usually after 2 doses of Aconitum, the child is better.

The main remedies for croup are Aconitum, Hepar Sulph., and Spongia Tosta. There are a few others as well.  (see below in the Cough section). If there are no results from the above remedies, look to other remedies: Arsenicum, Belladonna, Iodium, Ipecacuanha, Kali Bich, Lachesis, Phosphorus, Rumex (see below).

Whooping Cough This information is here because there have been many cases where the child has been immunized with the DPT vaccine, yet still developed whooping cough. (The “P” in DPT stands for Pertussis). Whooping cough is cause by the Bordetella
bacteria. It is sometimes referred to as pertussis. The ‘whoop’ sound is a hoarse intake of a breath at the end of a bout of coughing. The bacteria emit toxins which paralyze the cilia in the lungs. The cilia are like tiny hairs that line the respiratory openings. Because of the paralysis, inflammation sets in, which interferes with the clearing of normal mucous. Thick, sticky mucous builds up and produces a gagging cough. The incubation period of whooping cough is 7 to 10 days. Infected children are contagious from onset up to 21 days after the coughing has begun. Whooping cough was once known as the “hundred day cough” because that was the period from the onset to full recovery. This cough is more likely to occur in the spring or summer. It usually starts with a low grade fever, sneezing, a runny nose, and a loose cough which is worse at night. This may continue up to two weeks. They may also be achy with low energy, a loss of appetite, watery eyes, and earaches. Then the mucous becomes thick and the child cannot cough it up. The coughing fits often end in gagging and vomiting. The coughing can last from 8-10 coughs per breath. The child’s face can become blue, due to the long coughing bouts and shortness of breath. There can be a look of terror on the child’s face because the severity of the cough, being unable to catch their breath, or the pain of coughing which causes fear and dread. This stage can last up to six weeks. Do not attempt to treat whooping cough in a child under one year old.  Seek professional help.  Whooping cough requires patient observation and calmness; it is a long and tiring condition for child and parent. Remedy pictures can change, unexpectedly, and it is best to have expert help if the coughing persists. It is really advisable to have help from a homeopath for this condition and/or staying in close contact with your health care provider to provide your child with the utmost comfort.  It is rare for complications to occur in a child over one year old. However, it is important to monitor progress very carefully because the cough can become violent and damage the lungs. It can also cause a hernia in the navel or a bowel prolapse in the very young. Complications can include pneumothorax (collapsed lung) which needs emergency hospital treatment, pleurisy, or pneumonia. If the child persistently cries after coughing or a sudden high fever develops then you must seek professional help, immediately.  Again, this is rare. But one needs to by observant and use good judgement.

There are many remedies for whooping cough and it is not unusual for the child to need more than two of them. The most usual ones are: Antimonium Tart., Bryonia, Carbo Veg., Coccus Cacti, Cuprum Metallicum, Drosera, Ipecac, Lycopodium, Nux Vomica, Phosphorus and Spongia Tosta.


  • A dry cough is usually hacking and tickling, because the mucous membranes are dry or the mucous is tough and sticking to the air passages. The chest is usually tight. The remedies are:  Aconitum, Arsenicum, Belladonna, Bryonia, Causticum, Chamomilla, Ignatia, Iodium, Kali Bich, Lachesis, Nux Vomica, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Rumex, Spongea Tosta, and Sticta Pulmonaria.
  • A moist cough has a lot of mucous in the air passages. There is a loose rattling and bubbling sound in the chest. This can be heard in the cough or the breathing. Even though there is a lot of mucous, in some coughs, it is hard for the child to cough it up. These coughs can take awhile to clear and stop sounding so awful. The remedies are:  Antimonium Tart, Hepar Sulph, Ipecacuanha, Kali Sulph, Lycopodium, and Pulsatilla. 
  • Spasmodic coughs come in fits of uncontrollable, violent and prolonged coughing. The remedies are:  Carbo Veg, Coccus Cacti, Cuprum Metallicum, Drosera, Ignatia, and Ipecacuanha.


  • Machine gun cough – repeats frequently; can’t catch breath. Drosera, Coccus Cacti.
  • Rapid coughing spells. Rumex.
  • Barking, like a seal. Aconitum, Hepar Sulph.
  • Like a saw being driven through a pine board. Spongia Tosta.
  • Hissing with hoarseness. Antimonium Tart.
  • Rattling. Antimonium Tart, Coccus Cacti.

 WHAT TO OBSERVE:  Based on the above explanations, what kind of cough does the child have?  What is the sound of the cough: rattling, deep, hoarse, ringing, hacking, like a machine gun (in rapid succession), hollow or barking? Is the cough worse or better: talking; movement; sitting up or lying down; day or night; cool or warm air; dry or moist air; hot or cold drinks; inside or outside? What is the sound of the child’s breathing: wheezy, labored, or squeaky? If the child coughs up mucous does it have a specific taste: metallic, sweet, or salty? Is the child taking short shallow breaths? What color is the mucous, if they can cough it up? Is the mucous lumpy, frothy or stringy? Do they have a sore throat? Is there a tickling in the throat? What is the child’s mood? Does the child want warm or cold drinks or food, or want no food or drink? Is the child experiencing a fever or a headache? Take their temperature.

SUPPORTIVE MEASURES:  For All Coughs: Get extra rest. Push fluids, even if they only take a few sips at a time. This will help to keep the mucous loose. Do not force the child to eat, if they are not hungry. This gives the digestive system a rest and encourages the body to eliminate toxic wastes. If the child asks for food give a light diet, low in sugar, high in Vitamin C, and avoid stimulants such as cola or tea. Even if the chest is sore, encourage the child to cough. This will help to get the mucous out.  Use a vaporizer (cool or hot) depending on the type of cough. If you don’t have a vaporizer for a steam treatment, run the shower or tub spout with hot water in a closed bathroom. Have the child breathe in slow comfortably deep breaths.  Keep the temperature even. If you take the child outdoors, make sure they are bundled up well. Do not repress a cough with any form of cough medicine. To do so is blocking the body’s natural immune system of expelling mucous, which will prevent a deeper infection. Cough medicines make the child feel better temporarily because most of them contain about 25% alcohol. In some coughs, it is helpful for the child to be propped up with pillows in a semi-erect position. Always look in the “WORSE OR BETTER FROM” section for tips on what will make the child feel more comfortable, i.e. if a cough is worse lying on the back, encourage the child to lie on their side. For tickling coughs in children over three years old, you can use lozenges which do not contain: camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus, i.e. Blackcurrant pastilles or lemon drops. Discontinue or keep dairy products to a minimum, as this causes excess mucous. Humidify the room if you have forced air heat. Do not use any rubs or oils containing eucalyptus, menthol, camphor, tea tree oil. (These can nullify the homeopathic remedies).

Homemade cough treatments:

  • Lemon, honey and glycerine are soothing with tickling, teasing coughs. Squeeze half a lemon into a ½ cup of warm (not boiling) water; add a teaspoon of honey and two teaspoons of glycerine (pharmaceutical grade from the pharmacy). Give teaspoon doses as needed.
  • Thyme is traditionally used for coughs and lung problems. Make a ‘tea’ by pouring ½ pint of boiling water over a teaspoonful of leaves and flower tops (if you have them) and brew for 10 – 15 minutes. One old recipe calls for a pinch of rosemary, as well. Strain off the leaves and add honey to taste.
  • For a moist cough drink ginger tea. Boil three to four slices of fresh ginger in two cups of water and simmer for fifteen minutes.  Liquorice root tea is also good for moist coughs.


  • Pains in the chest become persistent especially if they are present when not coughing.
  • Sharp pains shoot through the chest area if moving around.
  • Coughing produces blood streaked mucus.
  • A fever develops especially with alternating chills and heat with intermittent sweats.
  • Wheezing and rattling in the chest causes difficult breathing.
  • Hyperventilation (rapid breathing) or sleep apnoea (breathing stops for long periods during sleep).
  • The face goes blue with the effort of coughing or breathing.
  • Nausea and vomiting accompany gagging with the cough.
  • Loss of appetite over a period of several days.
  • Your child is becoming excessively fatigued or is not sleeping because of the coughing.
  • A cough lasts more than 3 days in an infant or 8 days in an older child.  The cough is severe, the child  can’t sleep because of it and no remedies have helped within 48 hours. 
  • If your child has a chronic cough or a cough that does not originate from a cold or flu. Chronic coughs can be from: allergies, asthma, liver problems, accidents which may have caused structural problems affecting the lungs, passive or active smoking (in teenagers) or a long unexpressed emotional reason (most usually grief). There is not always a cough present in children with pneumonia. Go to the hospital if your child has a fever; is breathing rapidly, erratically or with difficulty; is limp, lethargic and very pale.
  • There is a high fever; rapid swelling in the larynx; or excessive drooling on the pillow, because they cannot swallow. This points to a condition called Epiglottis, affecting 2 – 6 year olds, but is rare. It can be fatal if the airway becomes too swollen and closes off. Swelling initially causes a croupy sounding cough, but swelling with epiglottis rapidly closes the airway. There will be a raspy noisy sound on inspiration of the breath. IF YOU SUSPECT THIS CONDITION TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY.
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