Little Kids

Ask Dr. Dina: What's the best way to treat my kid‘s racking dry cough?

Paediatrician Dr. Dina Kulik recommends safer alternatives to cough syrups.

Photo: iStock Photo: iStock

My kid has a racking dry cough that keeps him up at night. What can we do?

Cough medicine is not only ineffective but also potentially dangerous for kids. I don’t recommend giving cough syrups for kids under six years old. But here’s what you can try:

Water, rest, repeat Encourage your kid to drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest—it really does help. Frequently drinking small amounts of fluid can work wonders. Try using a “crazy straw” to entice reluctant sippers.

Check their temperature If your kid does have a fever, acetaminophen and ibuprofen can help lower it and decrease any aches associated with the cold or flu. If your child is less than three months old, however, a fever can signal a serious bacterial infection—see your doctor ASAP.

Get the gunk out Saline drops or spray and suction can help clear the nose of mucus so your child can breathe easier. My preference is to use a nasal aspirator that works through the parent’s suction.

Up the humidity A humidifier with eucalyptus oil can really help with decongestion. Keep that eucalyptus oil and vapour rub out of your kid’s reach, however, as they can be toxic if ingested.


Sweeten the deal Honey can aid in cold recovery in kids over a year old. Taken straight from a spoon or mixed in warm water or milk, honey has great natural antiviral and antibacterial properties to help fight infection.

Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys, who are five, three and 17 months. Send her your kids’ health questions at

This article was originally published on Oct 31, 2016

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.