Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 16, 2021

Call 911 if your child:

  • Is unconscious or not breathing
  • Is gasping for breath
  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing very fast when not coughing
  • Has severe coughing attacks or continuous coughing
  • Can't cry or talk because of breathing trouble
  • Grunts when breathing
  • Has blue lips
  • May have a small object caught in their throat
  • Is breathing very fast (this is also a symptom of fever)
  • Looks very sick

Coughs in young children can be due to a number of illnesses. Most often, a cough gets better on its own and doesn't need to be a cause for concern, but you may want to try something to get relief and help reduce the inflammation caused by cough or sore throat. Many over-the-counter cough medicines contain honey, aloe or menthol. These help reduce the inflammation of the upper airways. 
Keep in mind that honey should never be given to children under 1 and it's not recommended for children under 2 years old.

Call Doctor If Your Child:

  • Is younger than 1 year old and still has trouble breathing after you cleaned out their nose
  • May have a lung infection or a reactive airways disease episode
  • Is wheezing or making a high-pitched whistle sound when breathing out or in
  • Can't take a deep breath because of chest pain or coughed-up blood
  • Has a fever that lasts longer than 72 hours


1. Prevent Dehydration

  • Give babies plenty of breast milk or formula.
  • Give older children water or juice mixed with water.

2. Relieve Congestion

  • Thin mucus in a stuffy nose with saline nose drops.
  • Remove mucus from a baby's nose with a suction bulb.
  • Use a humidifier in your child's room or take your child into the bathroom with a steamy shower running.

3. Ease Breathing

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running and have your child breathe in the steam.

4. Make the Child Comfortable

  • Let the child rest.
  • Avoid irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
  • Don't give cough medicine to a child under age 4 unless your pediatrician suggests it.
WebMD Medical Reference



The Nemours Foundation: "Cough Instruction Sheet."

American Academy of Pediatrics: "Cough" and "Treating Bronchiolitis in Infants."

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