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Cough Medicine for Kids: From Prescription Meds to Natural Treatments

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jun 20, 2022

    Cough Medicine for Kids: From Prescription Meds to Natural Treatments

    Coughing in children is quite common, especially when the child has the flu. As the body recovers from the disease, coughs will usually heal on their own over time. Even so, parents need to pay attention to the type of cough and its symptoms, in order to provide the right cough medicine for kids. Here are some cough medicines for children ranging from medical to natural.

    Natural Cough Medicine for Kids

    To relieve cough symptoms in your child, parents can try various treatments. These can range from natural cough remedies to medicine for children prescribed by your pediatrician.

    If the cough is not severe, parents can try natural ways to relieve cough in their child.

    Here are some natural home remedies to relieve cough in children:

    1. Give Your Child Adequate Rest

    When a cough occurs, children need adequate rest. The length of the rest depends on the severity of the cough and the severity of other symptoms associated with the cough, such as fever or runny nose. In general, when a child has a cough, they need 2-3 days to rest.

    Make sure your child gets enough sleep and refrains from activities that can slow cough healing.

    • First, avoid playtime outside the house.
    • Your child may also need to skip school. This depends on how severe the cough is. Regardless, it may still be a good idea to avoid the spread of infection to other children.
    • If your child’s condition deteriorates and they feel weak, it is better to rest at home for 1-2 days until cough symptoms improve.

    2. Try Honey

    Honey is a popular and effective natural cough medicine for kids.

    Research conducted by the University of North Carolina showed that 90 percent of children with cough symptoms who consumed honey improved their condition. The results showed relief from symptoms after consuming 1.5 teaspoons of honey every night before going to bed.

    As a cough medicine for kids, honey has antibacterial properties that can help fight infection. And in addition to its antibacterial properties which are effective in treating coughs, children also like honey because of its sweet taste.

    The following is the recommended dose of honey as a cough medicine for kids, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics:

    • Age 1-5 years: half a teaspoon
    • Age 6-11 years: 1 teaspoon
    • Ages 12 and over: 2 teaspoons

    Aside from giving honey directly, you can also dissolve honey in warm water so that it is easier for your little one to swallow. However, DO NOT give honey to children under one year of age. Honey has the potential to cause botulism in infants.

    cough medicine for kids

    3. Avoid Allergy Triggers

    If your child’s cough doesn’t go away, avoid food and drink that trigger coughs — for example, sugary drinks, cold drinks, and fried food.

    It is recommended to give warm food such as soup. These can prevent coughing due to itching in the throat.

    If your child has symptoms of an allergic cough, avoid any exposure to allergens. Also pay attention to the cleanliness of the home environment as dust is a common allergy trigger. Mold and pet dander — also common allergy triggers — easily stick to sofas or mattresses, and these can cause a child with allergies to cough.

    4. Give Your Child Ginger Water

    Drinking ginger that has been dissolved in warm water or tea can help relieve cough symptoms in children.

    Ginger is a natural cough medicine that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, making it effective against infections caused by germs.

    Based on research, ginger can provide a warm sensation in the throat. This warm sensation provides a soothing effect to the throat and neck muscles that tighten due to a dry cough. In some studies, traditional medicines containing ginger also help thin out mucus in the respiratory tract. These benefits make ginger suitable as a natural remedy to treat cough with phlegm in children.

    The benefits of this natural cough medicine for kids can be obtained through direct consumption of ginger water. But if your child doesn’t like the taste, you can try mixing ginger with lemon juice, tea, honey, or milk.

    Give this natural cough medicine twice a day for as long as your child experiences symptoms.

    5. Serve Cold Food

    Is it true that if a child has a cough it is necessary to give cold food? Cold foods such as ice cream or frozen fruit can relieve a swollen throat due to coughing.

    Ice cream can also provide relief for your child’s sore throat.

    Treating Bark-Like Cough in Children

    Barky or bark-like coughs usually go away on their own in about a week. But in order to recover faster, parents can give paracetamol or ibuprofen to relieve pain in babies over 6 months old.

    Dextromethorphan cough medicine should only be given to treat coughs in children older than 4 years.

    In addition to using medicine, parents can also relieve the symptoms of their child’s croup cough by:

    • Give 1/2-1 tablespoon of honey 4 times a day (especially for children over the age of 1 year).
    • Immediately calm the child if they start crying.
    • Keep the humidity of your child’s room moist by installing a humidifier.
    • Make sure the child gets enough sleep and rest.
    • Give your child plenty of warm water, fruit juice, or soup to ease breathing and reduce coughing.

    Before going to bed, give a glass of warm water to drink and tuck a thick pillow under their head to ease breathing.

    cough medicine for kids

    Prescription and OTC Cough Medicine for Kids

    Handling cough in children depends on the underlying cause. When giving cough medicine for kids, parents must pay attention to the type of medicine, the number of prescribed doses, and how many times a day the medicine should be given.


    According to Consumer Reports , if a child has a cough with phlegm accompanied by a fever, acetaminophen can be given. This drug can be found in Tylenol, or in some medications, together with ibuprofen, or naproxen. Paracetamol can also be given as it is similar in form and action.

    However, acetaminophen is not recommended for children under two years of age, especially in infants under 3 months of age.

    Avoid giving aspirin to children, especially those under 2 years of age because it can trigger rare disorders, such as Reye’s syndrome.

    Decongestant Nasal Spray

    To relieve cough in children, a decongestant nasal spray can be an alternative.

    This needs to be given if the cough is accompanied by a runny nose that causes a stuffy nose.

    Giving this spray can only be done for three days. Prolonged use can make nasal congestion worse and can cause a rebound of symptoms.

    Pay Attention to the Dose of Cough Medicine for Kids

    Before giving cough medicine for kids, consult with a doctor first.

    Generally, coughs are caused by viruses, and the cough will usually heal on its own without treatment or medication.

    Medication can be useful in relieving symptoms that may cause discomfort. The dose of cough medicine given by the doctor varies based on the age and weight of the child. It’s a good idea to check with a pediatrician to find out the right cough medicine dose based on your child’s condition, their weight, and their age.

    The Food and Drug Administration in the United States (FDA) explains that the use of cough medicine is not recommended for children under 2 years of age. The FDA further explains that over-the-counter cough medicines may contain codeine or hydrocodone that are not intended for children.

    If you want to give cough syrup that is sold in the market, parents must follow the instructions on the packaging label. Remember, always use a measuring spoon.

    It is important to follow the instructions for using the drug. Do not exceed or reduce the recommended dose in the package of cough medicine for kids.

    If you have taken medicine and the cough does not go away in 1-2 weeks, take your child to the doctor immediately.

    Avoid Giving Antibiotics

    Cough is a symptom of illness caused by a virus, so there is no need for antibiotics. These are intended for infections that are caused by bacteria. Giving antibiotics when your child has a viral infection will not help. In fact, if antibiotics are given too often, the child’s body can become resistant to antibiotics and this is an unfavorable condition.

    Learn more about other Common Conditions in Children here.


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

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Hello Sehat · Updated Jun 20, 2022

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