Hi Dr. C.,
My five-year-old son has been dealing with a cold and is up all night with a cough. Can I give him over-the-counter cough medicine to relieve his symptom and help us both get some sleep?
Cold season is here and unfortunately coughs are a common symptom that typically gets worse at night because the mucus from the nose and sinuses drain down the back of the throat. Over-the-counter medicines are often not recommended for young children because they have not been proven to work and the side effects can be harmful. At age five, the use of over-the-counter cough medicine should be approved by your son’s pediatrician. Before resorting to medicine, I’d like to recommend a few home remedies first:
- Give your son one teaspoon of honey*. Honey helps to coat and soothe the throat.
- Use a mentholated rub on the chest or throat area to relieve symptoms.
- Use an extra pillow to keep your son's head elevated
- Keep your son hydrated with plenty of fluids to keep airways moist and strong.
- Use a cold air humidifier to add moisture to the air and loosen mucus.
If you notice the following symptoms, you should call your son’s pediatrician right away:
- The cough has lasted more than two weeks
- If your son has asthma and a nighttime cough
- Your son has trouble breathing and/or has a blue tinge to his lips, face or tongue
- You hear wheezing when he breathes out or stridor (a musical sound) when breathing in
- You notice a “whooping” sound when he breathes in after coughing
- Your son is coughing up blood
- He becomes dehydrated
Remember, there is no quick fix when it comes to the common cold, but hopefully these tips help you navigate the rest of the cold season.
*Note: Honey should not be given to children under one year of age.
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