backup og meta

Baby Cough: Do's and Don'ts When Your Baby Has Cough

Medically reviewed by Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 27, 2022

    Baby Cough: Do's and Don'ts When Your Baby Has Cough

    Many of us have already experienced a bad case of cough at least once. So, we understand that coughing fits are irritating at best and painful to endure at worst. They even interfere with our daily activities including speaking, eating, and sleeping. This is why parents find it hard to hear their baby cough, especially at night when they are supposed to be sleeping.

    In case your little one is hacking away with a bad cough, these do’s and don’ts might help.

    ✓Do: Try to Decode Your Baby’s Cough

    Only a doctor can give your baby the correct diagnosis, but you might be able to decode a cough based on its sound. This is important because some kinds of cough require immediate medical care.

    Is it a “whooping” cough? 

    Whooping cough is often excessive to the point babies can’t feed. As they try to catch their breath (inhale), they produce a whooping sound. This could be a sign of pertussis, a bacterial infection that’s particularly dangerous for babies who haven’t completed their Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus (DPT) shots yet.

    If you recognize a whooping baby cough, bring your baby to the doctor right away.

    Is it a barking cough?

    A barking cough might point to croup, a viral infection that may go away with home treatment. However, severe cases or those that do not resolve with home remedies require medical care.

    Is it a wet cough?

    A wet cough sounds like they have mucus that needs expelling.

    A wet baby cough typically follows a cold, and while it sounds bad, it’s a part of the recovery process, specifically in relieving congestion.

    Note that a wet cough lasting more than four weeks could indicate bronchitis.

    Is it a dry cough?

    A dry cough, one that doesn’t produce phlegm, might be due to allergies or asthma.

    Asthma cough tends to be worse at night and is accompanied by the difficulty breathing. Both asthma and allergies might have a wheezing sound.

    ✓Do: Offer Fluids

    Fluids help break up mucus and expel them faster. If your little one is younger than 6 months, continue giving them breast or formula milk. If they are older than 6 months, you can offer them water, soup, broth, or other foods with high water content (popsicle, watermelon, etc.)

    ✓Do: Help Them Find a Comfortable Position

    A baby cough, especially one that happens due to excessive phlegm, tends to be worse at night because the mucus trickles down their throat. 

    Experts recommend keeping your baby upright as much as possible throughout the day. At night, older babies can be propped up with extra pillows.

    However, babies under a year old shouldn’t sleep in infant seats or inclined products as they increase the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

    ✓Do: Help Them Clear Their Nose

    If your little one has excessive mucus, consider using a nasal aspirator to manually remove mucus in the nose. For thicker mucus, you might want to ask their doctor about saline drops.

    ✓Do: Bring Them to the Doctor

    Bring your little one to the hospital if they appear to have difficulty of breathing, develop a bluish tinge in their lips and nails (cyanosis), become difficult to rouse, and seem to have inhaled a foreign object.

    Also, consult a doctor if the baby cough lasts longer than 2 weeks with or without a cold or it already interferes with your child’s daily life. A fever is also a sign that your child needs a check-up.

    Don’t: Allow Smoking in the House

    Cigarette smoke can irritate the lungs further, causing worse coughing fits. Besides, second-hand smoke brings about many health risks.

    Don’t: Give Honey to Babies Younger than 12 Months

    Honey may relieve cough, but giving it to babies younger than a year old is risky because of infant botulism, a rare but life-threatening food poisoning.

    Don’t: Give Them Medicines Unless Approved by a Doctor

    As much as you want your baby to get better, do not give them any medicine unless their pediatrician approves of it.

    Giving medicines to babies without prescription is risky because many over-the-counter medicines that are safe for adults are harmful to infants.

    Case in point: aspirin may cause liver and brain damage, ibuprofen is not recommended to babies younger than 6 months, and decongestants may cause rapid heartbeat. Additionally, some medicines shouldn’t be used for more than a couple of days.

    Key Takeaways

    Many cases of baby cough resolve with home remedies. However, some need immediate medical attention. The best course of action is to bring your baby to the doctor if their cough doesn’t get better or it appears to be worsening even after performing home remedies.   

    Learn more about Baby Care here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Rubilyn Saldana-Santiago, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jul 27, 2022

    advertisement iconadvertisement

    Was this article helpful?

    advertisement iconadvertisement
    advertisement iconadvertisement