Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Love and Coughs Cannot be Well Hid"

...says George Herbert, a Welsh poet. Poets know what they're talking about, trust me. Ever had a child that coughed all night and couldn't sleep (*cough* let you sleep)? Those of you who have shared my agony will attest to the fact that it is really one of the most difficult situations to deal with. I've had plenty of experience with this one as Z is very prone to chesty coughs. It's that dreaded post nasal drip. So, here's my 2 cents on what works for coughs.

Nip it in the bud quickly and start dosing!

Oh I know I sound like a broken record. It's so important though and so very much easier than having to treat a full blown attack. This means that, at the first sign of a runny nose, you should be going at it with all guns a blazing whether it be Vit C, Echinacea or GSE. In my opinion, the dosage on the label is useless. Give a dose every hour for the first day and in many cases, you will be able to stop it right there in its tracks. (Pls. refer to my initial posts for information about what to have at hand and my "Where to Buy" page for links to products).

Hit the jacuzzi!

If you're lucky enough to have one. For the rest of us, sitting in the bathroom with the shower on full steam usually does the trick. It loosens the mucous and will help you aspirate or if an older child, help him/her blow it out. Also keep a humidifier (cool mist is best) in your child's room and keep his/her head propped up either through extra pillows or by putting some books under the bed to elevate it.


Thyme is a good expectorant, that is, it helps to expel mucous from the chest and lungs. Boil some fresh thyme (fresh is best but can use dried too) in water and let is steep for some time. Add honey to sweeten the deal as it will not only make the tea easier to digest but will also aid in soothing the cough and fighting infection. I like to use raw, unfiltered honey as most of the commercially prepared honey has been heated so much that all the enzymes have been killed off. It is said that darker honey is supposed to work better than lighter honey e.g buckwheat. Manuka honey is supposed to be a great natural antibiotic in fact but it is darned expensive and has a little bit of a spicy flavour to it which may make it a little harder to get into your little devil's mouth. (Honey is not suitable for children under 1 due to the risk of botulism so exercise caution with babies please).

Ginger is also not only an expectorant but is known for its antispasmodic properties meaning you can nuke (hmm side note: is there a bit too much of the passive-aggressive in me?) those awful night long coughing fits with it. Try grating some ginger into a big spoon of honey and giving it to your (1+) child - I have noticed it helping arrest the cough almost immediately.


Try rubbing some Eucalyptus oil (remember to dilute it in a carrier oil e.g. almond; never use directly because it will burn!) on your child's chest. Even better mix it with some ginger oil and apply to the chest and the back a few times during the day and before bedtime. Eucalyptus helps open the airways and is, at the risk of repeating myself, also an expectorant. Also it's great for a stuffed up nose which you'll often find accompanying a cough. 

Onion Soaked in Honey

You can make a cough syrup by pouring honey over a sliced onion (some people layer the honey with the onions) and letting it sit for several hours. The onion juices seep into the honey and you can give the resulting liquid as a cough syrup. Onions are known for their anti inflammatory properties and they are also expectorants so they do double duty to help dispel the cough and any underlying infection.

Although I haven't used this one, I have read that making an onion 'pack' for your child's chest can help ease coughing spells as well. It involves heating sliced onion slightly so it's warm but not too hot to the touch, wrapping it in a muslin cloth and then applying it to the chest for 10-15 minutes at a time, re-heating as needed. You can add a hot water bottle for an older child or just cover with lots of blankets to keep the area warm. Yes, this will stink. Sorry! At 3am in the morning when you're dying for some sleep, do ya really care? I didn't think so...

Updated: Happy to say I have used this a number of times now and it works great! Use medical tape to keep the pack in place and if you don't have muslin at home, use a paper towel - it works just as well!

H2O & Chicken Soup for the Soul

Finally, make sure your child is hydrated throughout this time. Fluids will help thin out the mucous in the chest and make it easier for him/her to dispel. Water is best as juices and milk may make the problem worse. 

Also wonderful are soups whether in the form of old fashioned chicken stock or a vegetable medley that adds vitamins. Children often won't eat much when coughing so this is a good way of getting some nutrition into them. Add some ginger & thyme and you're attacking that darned cough from all sides (there's me being passive-aggressive again!). Following the folk remedies back home (Pakistan), I also add some other spices which are known to bring heat to the chest and also help expel the gunk that often causes prolonged coughing. These are (all in whole, not powdered form, for maximum effect):

-- Black Peppercorns 
-- Cloves
-- Cinnamon

Add some fresh onion, garlic in addition to the above and you've got yourself a nutritious and medicinal soup that your children will enjoy! My kids drink it by the mug. 

Off to go fix my cough now!



P.S My hubby rightly points out that I don't really distinguish between dry and congested coughs here - since the above are all natural remedies and the aim is not to suppress the cough but make it useful (that is remove whatever is irritating the throat/chest), these will work for all coughs. You can't really go wrong with any of them. E-mail me if you have any questions about specific types of coughs. 


  1. The nasal drip is the bane of my life. Solom's had a cough for over a month now only because of the infernal nasal drip, and there's no point medicating it because there's no infection! Will definitely try out some of these remedies!

  2. Ugh I know! Z has the same exact issue. The humidifier really helped in her case and also elevating her bed so her head is raised. Hope he feels better soon xx