Coughing: What really helps with children

What really helps children with coughs

01.03.2017, 16:52 | Anya Robert,

There are many tried and tested home remedies for coughing. (Source: Thinkstock by Getty-Images)

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Coughing caused by a cold is the most common reason why we go to the doctor with our children. Eight to twelve such diseases per year are normal in children. Home remedies are often better than cough blockers.

Coughing itself is not a disease in itself, but almost always a symptom of the disease. If it lasts longer than two to three weeks, the causes should be investigated. Possible symptoms include diseases of the lungs, heart, stomach or reactions to medication. However, the most common cause of coughing is a viral infection.

Coughing in children: When to see a doctor?

If you have a coughing baby, you should definitely see a pediatrician. Even older children with high fever or coughing pain should be examined more closely. If the cough is not gone after three weeks, a doctor should also check it out.

Children’s Diseases Encyclopedia
Symptoms, course and treatment

Bronchitis lasts up to three weeks

A US study by the UGA College of Public Health has shown that a (normal) cough usually lasts longer than expected. Patients often become impatient if acute bronchitis does not improve after a week. An average duration of 18 days is quite normal. According to this study, doctors often prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily because their patients come to the practice several times and complain that the cough simply does not want to get better. Patience is therefore required. Bronchitis is mostly caused by viruses, and antibiotics are completely ineffective here anyway.

Coughing is first dry, then productive

A cough usually has a dry phase without sputum at the beginning, followed by a productive phase in which mucus is coughed up. Just the dry cough can be agonizing or painful and rob the whole family of night sleep. In this case it may make sense to use a cough blocker for the night for a short time. It is important to use only drugs that are expressly approved for children. In general, cough blockers should be taken as short as possible, as some active ingredients such as codeine are addictive.

When the cough then passes into the phlegm-producing phase, one should no longer take cough-relieving medication so that the phlegm – and with it the pathogens – can also be removed from the lungs.

Herbal remedies that help with coughing

There are also some herbal cough remedies that are considered effective and are prescribed to children on prescription. Children up to the age of twelve are exempt from the co-payment. Instead of chemical cough blockers, we recommend, for example, ribwort and marshmallow extracts, primrose root extract, sundew, ivy extract, thyme or Iceland moss. Also lozenges, Emser salt, honey or syrup can reduce the cough irritation, because they provide for a moist pharyngeal mucosa. They also have an antispasmodic and disinfectant effect.

The German Society for Pneumology and Respiratory Medicine (DGP), for example, has included two plant combinations in its therapy recommendations. The effectiveness of an extract of thyme herb and ivy leaves and an extract of thyme and primrose roots has been scientifically proven, according to the DGP.

The mucolytic comes after the cough suppressant

If the cough then enters the productive phase, an expectorant can help. Here, too, there are herbal alternatives. Thyme, for example, has proven its worth – available are thyme-containing cough syrups and cough teas with thyme. Other expectorants are extracts of anise, peppermint, eucalyptus, ivy leaves and primrose roots or the mixture Myrtol. Some plants, such as eucalyptus, are unsuitable for small children under the age of three – it is best to ask your pharmacist or paediatrician.

While taking expectorants it is important that the small cough patient drinks enough and that the treatment with expectorants is only carried out during the day. At night, the increased coughing up would finally be disturbing.

Helpful breast compresses

A classic that can be used alone or as a supportive treatment for other medications is a compress. A child who is to have a breast compress must not freeze and must be kept warm. Warm compresses are unsuitable for high fever.

Basically, a large cloth like a tea towel or a gauze diaper is placed around the chest. A thick, dry cloth (towel or woollen scarf) is placed on top. The wrap then remains on the breast for half an hour to two hours before it is removed again.

lemon, salt, potato or curd cheese

If the cough is dry and agonizing, warm compresses are indicated: Soak a tea towel in hot water, which can be enriched with a tablespoonful of salt, or with the juice of a lemon. Thyme tea can also be used instead of normal water. This hot and damp cloth is placed around the chest and covered with a large towel or wool scarf. It is best to check the temperature of the wrap on your forearm before placing it on the baby’s breast. It should not be too hot. In the case of lemon compresses, you should check after a few minutes whether the child’s skin is irritated – in the case of strong redness, the compress must be removed immediately.

A potato wrap also warms and soothes agonizing coughs. Warm boiled potatoes are crushed and wrapped in a cloth before being placed on the breast. Also check the temperature on the forearm so that the compress is not too hot. When the potatoes cool down, remove the compress.

Quark wraps have proven their worth with heavy slime formation. Quark is applied to the middle of a cloth. The two free ends are beaten over it. Warm the compress with a hot-water bottle and then place the thinner layer of fabric on the chest. A thick dry cloth is then placed on top. The curd wrap should last at least two to three hours or until it has dried well.

Onion juice and radish syrup

Onions have an antibiotic and expectorant effect and are therefore ideal for coughing. A finely chopped onion is poured over with a few tablespoons of honey or mixed with rock candy. After a short time the onion begins to draw juice. After a few hours you can strain the onion juice and give your child a teaspoonful several times a day. Children over the age of three are given a tablespoon of juice several times a day. Alternatively, you can boil the chopped onion with sugar and a cup of water for a few minutes and add this onion stock after it has cooled down.

Radish also has a strong antibacterial and antitussive effect. It can be mixed with onion or mixed pure with sugar or honey. Black radish has the strongest effect – but white radish does the same if you don’t get black.

Both juices are suitable for children from about one year of age. Honey should generally not be given to children under one year of age. The homemade cough juices are kept in the refrigerator for about a week.

What else is important in coughing

To make the mucus in the bronchi more fluid, it is important that your child drinks a lot. This makes it easier for your child to cough freely. Humid air relieves the coughing irritation. Hang wet towels on radiators or on a clothes horse, or place bowls of hot water on them to moisten the air you breathe. You can also drip essential oils into the bowls or onto the towels – there are special cough mixtures that contain thyme, for example. Caution is advised with eucalyptus and menthol if your child is under three years of age.

Garlic on the sole of your foot?

We don’t want to withhold one last tip from you. It sounds adventurous, but some people swear by it: the reflex zones for breathing are located on the sole of the foot below the toes across the entire width of the foot. If you brush this area with a clove of garlic cut open and then put on warm socks, the cough will be put to an end. We think: trying it out doesn’t hurt.

Important note: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognised doctors. The contents of cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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