Cough in a child- how to treat

What to do if your child has a cough.


Winter doses:

We are coming into that lovely time of year where we get a lot of queries from parents about coughs. It can be worrying to hear a small child suffering and parents often don’t know what to do. However a cough is a sign that your child’s immune system is working effectively. We would far prefer if your child brings up phlegm than allow it to pool in the lungs where it can lead to more serious bacterial infections such as pneumonia.



Most coughs are caused by a mild viral infection such as the common cold or flu. It is one of the symptoms that you may notice when your child is fighting a mild viral infection. Other symptoms may include a stuffy or runny nose, a high temperature and general aches and pains. The cough will usually resolve itself within a couple of days.


Treatment if dry:

However there are some over the counter medications that can help ease the discomfort. If the child is under one year old it is better to get them checked by the doctor to ensure there are no under lying issues. There are no cough bottles that are suitable to use in this age group. However you can get simple syrups such as glycerine, honey and lemon which can be given to babies of over one year of age. These will lubricate the throat and ease a dry non-productive cough. When children reach 6 years of age they can be given dry cough suppressants such as Benylin Dry  for children. However cough suppressants should be used in caution in asthmatics as they can mask an exacerbation of asthmatic conditions.

Treatment if chesty:

If your child’s cough sounds chesty then they may need an expectorant to help loosen any phlegm on the chest. A good expectorant is Carbocisteine which is the main ingredient in Exputex or Viscolex. These can be given to children over two years of age. An expectorant is usually given twice or three times per day. However try to avoid giving an expectorant just before bed time as they can make the child cough more if they lie down directly after getting their evening dose.


What to do if the cough lasts longer then 3 weeks:

Also keep your child well hydrated while they have a dose. If the cough does not clear up within 3 weeks it is worth bringing them to the GP to ensure there is no underlying condition or infection that is causing a problem. If you are worried about your child’s health bring them in with you to your pharmacy for some advice on whether you need to bring them to the GP.

You can get more advice on the following website: