8 Best Home Remedies To Treat And Prevent Dry Cough In Kids

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You may commonly notice a wet or dry cough in kids. Coughing is a defensive response that clears the airways of irritants, germs, and foreign particles. While wet cough is associated with mucus production, a dry cough does not produce phlegm (mucus).

Coughing multiple times a day can be a symptom of viral infections, such as the common cold, which resolve in a few weeks. However, seek medical care if your child has a persistent cough that lasts more than two to three weeks (1).

Read on to know the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, home remedies, and prevention strategies for dry cough in children.

In This Article

Causes Of Dry Cough In Children

There can be various reasons for dry cough. Common causes in children may include the following (1).

  1. Viral respiratory infections such as common cold, croup, viral pneumonia, or acute bronchitis
protip_icon Quick fact
Croup can be identified by its characteristic stridor, which refers to a distinctive, high-pitched whistling on breathing in (11).
  1. Post-viral cough (post-infectious cough or lingering cough) is seen at the end of viral respiratory tract infections. This is due to airway hyperresponsiveness.
  1. Whooping cough or pertussis caused by bacteria Bordetella pertussis leads to multiple coughs. A whooping sound on inhalation after a coughing fit is heard in this disease, and emergency care is required.
  1. Allergies and asthma can cause pediatric cough in some children. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the prevalence of asthma among children under the age of 18 is 6.2%. Wheezing can be another prominent symptom, along with an asthmatic cough that can adversely affect your children’s health.
  1. Irritants such as smoke, perfumes, dust, or smell of certain chemicals can trigger short spells of dry cough in some children.
  1. Inhaled foreign bodies, such as nuts or parts of toys, could cause cough in children. The child could continue to have a cough until the foreign object is removed from the airways.
  1. Dry weather may cause dry cough due to airway irritation and throat dryness.
Dry weather can cause dry cough in kids

Image: IStock

  1. Sinus infection (sinusitis) may cause dry cough due to postnasal drip.
  1. Gastroesophageal refluxiXA condition where the reflux of stomach contents to the food pipe causes burning and discomfort in the chest or acid reflux from the stomach may stimulate cough reflex, resulting in dry cough.
  1. Habit cough (psychogenic cough or somatic cough syndrome) is a cough without any medical reasons. This can be a loud barking or honking cough, sometimes seen after a child has recovered from airway infections.

Diagnosing dry cough can be challenging since it can occur in several viral and bacterial infections in children. It is also possible to have a dry cough due to non-infectious reasons. Seek expert help to identify the exact cause of dry cough in children.

The common cold is one of the usual reasons for children to develop a cough. The graph below shows the various symptoms of a common cold (sore throat, headache, congestion, runny nose, and cough) and the duration for which the symptoms can linger. It indicates that a cough, congestion, and runny nose may take more than 14 days (two weeks) to resolve, whereas a headache and sore throat may cause discomfort for eight to 10 days.

Duration of cough and cold symptoms

Source: Common Cold; CDC

Symptoms Associated With Dry Cough In Children

Cough is a symptom, not a disease. So you may notice other symptoms along with cough due to the underlying cause. The common signs and symptoms seen with cough may include (2):

  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle ache
  • Body pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue
  • Breathing difficulty

The above-listed symptoms can be seen in various diseases and conditions. Seek medical care to identify the underlying cause and begin appropriate treatment.

protip_icon Point to consider
Coughs tend to worsen at bedtime when children lie down in a supine positioniXA sleep position that involves lying on the back with face and abdomen facing upwards (11).

Note: It is essential to teach cough etiquette, like covering the mouth, to your child to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

Home Remedies For Dry Cough In Children

A mother documents a remedy that worked for her, “Take a fresh orange, wash it, and soak it in salt water for 15 minutes. Slice the top part of the orange and sprinkle some salt over the top. Use a chopstick/fork to prick and mix the orange and the salt. Cover the orange with the top part and steam it for 15 minutes in a bowl half-filled with boiling water. Then, peel off the skin and drink the orange juice and the water from the bowl. I tried it a few times on my son. Now, he had an occasional cough, which is not as frequent, severe, and lingering as his previous experiences. This home remedy for cough is very effective for my two daughters as well (i).”

The following homemade cough remedies could help reduce the throat irritation and discomfort that often accompanies dry cough   (3).

  1.  Maintain adequate hydration to loosen the mucus and make it easier to cough. Hydration could also help soothe the throat and provide cough relief.
  1. Give half to one teaspoon of honey as needed. Honey could help soothe the throat irritation. Do not give honey to babies younger than one year of age due to the risk of infant botulismiXA severe food poisoning caused by the toxins released by Clostridium Botulinum bacteria in infants .
Honey can help soothe the irritated throat in kids

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Corn syrup can be given if honey is not available. However, it may not work as well as honey.
  1. Warm, clear liquids may help ease throat irritation. You may try diluted apple juice, lemonade, or warm plain water.
  1.  Cough drops or throat lozenges act as cough suppressants and can be given to children older than six years. Younger children may have a risk of choking on cough drops.
  1. Give small frequent meals than full meals if coughing causes vomiting in your child.
  1.  You may use a cool-mist humidifier if the ambient air is dry since dry air could worsen the cough and cause respiratory distress.
protip_icon Quick tip
When using humidifiers, ensure to empty and dry them every day. Also, wash them out weekly to prevent mold and bacteria from accumulating in the humidifier (11).
Cool-mist humidifier can help treat dry cough in kids

Image: Shutterstock

  1. Cough medicines (antitussives) containing dextromethorphan (DM) can be given to children older than six years. Contact the pediatrician for a prescription with a safe dosage of children’s cough medicine.

protip_icon Point to consider
Sleeping slightly inclined with an extra pillow can help reduce nighttime cough in children above 12 months (12).

Non-prescription cough medicines are not recommended for the treatment of cough in younger children. Antibiotics are not useful for treating viral coughs. Always consult a doctor before giving antibiotics or any other medicine to children.

When To See A Doctor

Seek emergency medical care if your child has shortness of breath or bluish lips along with cough (4). Acute cough due to inhaled objects or any type of choking also requires immediate medical attention.

You may seek pediatric consultation for coughs with fever, wheezing, or other symptoms that interfere with sleep or daily activities.

Contact your kid’s pediatrician before going to the hospital to know the change in outpatient hours and regulations due to the COVID-19 pandemic in your locality.

Diagnosis Of Dry Cough In Children

History of associated symptoms, type of cough, and physical examinations are enough to establish most children’s diagnoses.

Pediatricians may order a chest X-ray, blood test, or a throat swab depending on the symptoms and examination findings. Lung function tests for asthma can be done in children who are older than five years (4).

Children with chronic cough, and weight loss or other severe symptoms may be referred to a respiratory specialist for detailed evaluation.

Treatment For Dry Cough In Children

Treatment for dry cough may vary depending on the severity and underlying cause. Any of the following management plans can be prescribed by the pediatrician (5).

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) is used to control fever associated with cough. Do not give Aspirin to children since it may cause Reye syndrome.
Give your kid acetaminophen to control fever associated with dry cough

Image: Shutterstock

  • Anti-asthma medication (Ventolin) is prescribed for asthma cases, and asthmatic cough usually resolves while taking this medication.
  • Post-viral cough (lingering cough or post-infectious cough) may not require specific treatment.
  • The doctor may suggest avoiding exposure to secondhand smoke, and other airway irritants that trigger dry cough in young children.
  • Referral to a gastroenterologist is made if the cough is caused by GERD or acid reflux.
  • Psychogenic cough or habit cough may require behavioral therapy.

Most children get a prescription of oral medication and care at home. Some causes of cough, such as pertussis, pneumonia, and bronchitis, may require hospitalization.

Note: Over-the-counter cough and cold medicines for relief are not recommended for children younger than four years. You may give these medicines to children older than four years after discussing it with a pediatrician (6).

The dosage of medications may vary depending on your child’s age and current health status. Therefore, do not use another child’s prescription or use previously prescribed medications.

Tips To Prevent Dry Cough In Children

The following methods may help prevent the illnesses and conditions that lead to dry cough (7).

  • Wash hands with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer
  • Use a face mask
  • Cover the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing
  • Do not touch the eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
  • Avoid irritants such as smoke and dust
  • Use safe toys and avoid giving nuts to younger children to reduce the risk of inhalation
  • Consider the annual influenza vaccination (flu shot). Flu immunization can be given any time after a baby reaches six months of age.
Flu immunization can help to prevent dry cough in kids

Image: IStock

If your child has an asthmatic cough, it is recommended to follow the treatment as per prescription to avoid exacerbations. Routine vaccination for children can reduce the risk of pertussis, as well.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can turmeric milk help with dry cough in children?

Yes. Dry cough can be effectively relieved by combining turmeric powder with hot milk and drinking it warm (8).

2. Can dry cough cause bleeding in the throat for kids?

Yes. A persistent, dry cough in conditions such as asthma or pneumonia can irritate the upper respiratory tract, resulting in blood coughing and the need for medical attention (9) (10).

3. Can my child go to school with a cough?

It depends on the severity and nature of the cough. If your child has a mild, occasional cough without any other symptoms and is generally well, they may be able to attend school. However, if the cough is persistent, accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or difficulty breathing, it’s advisable to keep your child at home and seek medical advice.

4. How long is a child contagious with a cough?

In general, respiratory infections such as colds or flu can be contagious for a few days to a week or longer (13). It’s important to follow the guidance of your healthcare provider regarding when it is safe for your child to return to school or other activities, to prevent infection spread.

5. Does children’s Benadryl help with coughing?

Children’s Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is an antihistamine commonly used to relieve allergy symptoms. However, it is not specifically designed to treat coughs from an infection, and its efficacy may vary (14). Thus, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional to ensure proper use and dosage of the medication.

6. Are there any specific age groups that are more susceptible to dry coughs in kids?

Children of all ages can experience dry coughs (15). However, younger children, particularly infants, and toddlers, may be more susceptible due to their developing immune systems.

Dry cough in kids can often cause great concern for many parents. If the condition increases by two folds, it may lead to drastic health concerns. So if there has been a history of exposure to an infected person, you must look for immediate care. It may include getting in contact with or staying around an infected person or your child being prone to cough and cold and having a higher risk due to chronic illnesses. It is always better to diagnose the root cause and begin treatment at the earliest to avoid further complications.

Infographic: How To Relieve Your Child Of Dry Cough At Home

Dry cough can cause serious discomfort in children and affect their sleep. Allergies, dry weather, or infections are the usual causes. Children should not be given medications without consulting a pediatrician. However, you may try a few home remedies to ease their discomfort. Go through the infographic below to know what they are.

 home remedies for dry cough in children(infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

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Key Pointers

  • Viral infections, pertussis, allergies, and dry weather are some of the causative factors of dry cough in children.
  • Associated symptoms may include fever, chills, sore throat, and runny nose.
  • Cool mist humidifiers, cough drops, and warm liquids may help relieve the cough.
  • Antibiotics, acetaminophen, or anti-asthmatic medications may be given to children after consulting a doctor.

Personal Experience: Source


MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.

1. Cough in Children; The American Academy Of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (Aaaai)
2. Graham Worrall; Acute Cough in Children; The United States National Library Of Medicine
3. Coughs: Meds or Home Remedies?; Seattle Children’s Hospital
4. Cough; Raisingchildren; The Government Of Australia
5. Cough; National Health Service; Scotland
6. Common Cold; The Centers For Disease Control And Prevention
7. Coughs, Age 11 And Younger; Prevention; Michigan Medicine
8. Shahnaz Sultana et al.; Cough Suppressant Herbal Drugs: A Review; International Journal of Pharmaceutical Science Invention
9. Coughing up blood (blood in phlegm); NHS
10. Dry Cough and Chest Tightness; Cleveland Clinic
11. Types of Coughs in Children; Children’s Hospital Colorado
12. How to Comfort Sick Kids at Home; Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
13. Am I Still Contagious?; Cedars Sinai
14. what to do about that awful cough!; Dayton Children’s 
15. what to do about that awful cough!; Dayton Children’s 

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