Kids · Toddlers

9 Natural Ways to Relieve a Toddler’s Nighttime Cough

Oh, the sleepless nights! A toddler’s nighttime cough can leave them (and us) feeling exhausted and irritable. However, you can help naturally relieve your toddler’s nighttime cough by using any (or a combination) of these nine remedies.

As a mom and a nurse, I have seen and used my share of cold remedies and medications over the years. But when it comes to our precious, feisty toddlers, we want to ensure we help ease their nighttime cough by using the safest and most natural methods.

It is important to note that knowing the underlying cause of the cough is the first step in treating it. So, speak to your child’s pediatrician for a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

In the meantime, for this article, we will be focusing on nine ways you can relieve your toddler’s nighttime cough caused by a common cold or virus.

How to Alleviate a Toddler’s Night-Time Cough

How to alleviate a toddler's night time cough naturally

Why does my toddler cough at nighttime?

As previously stated, there are many reasons why your toddler might be coughing at nighttime. For instance, a common cold, allergies, or asthma might be the culprit.

However, if your toddler’s cough appears to be whooping, wheezy, or accompanied by a high fever, he/she must be evaluated by their pediatrician as soon as possible.

Doing so will help determine the underlying cause and help your child receive proper treatment.

In most instances, however, a cough can sound awful but usually isn’t a sign of a severe condition. (Source)

In addition, a toddler’s cough, primarily caused by a cold or a virus, is amplified at night for multiple reasons.

According to KidsHealth.com, “Lots of coughs get worse at night. When your child has a cold, the mucus from the nose and sinuses can drain down the throat and trigger a cough during sleep.”

How can I stop my toddler from coughing at night?

That is the question of many exhausted parents as they try to calm and soothe a coughing toddler in the middle of the night.

Been there, done that. And I feel your pain.

But don’t feel discouraged. After many long nights and many prayers, I have narrowed it down to 9 tried and true methods for cough relief.

Read on if your toddler’s nighttime cough is related to a cold or virus. The following nine toddler’s nighttime cough remedies will give your toddler and you some much-needed rest.

Note: these cough remedies work well for kids of all ages.

9  Nighttime Toddler’s Cough Remedies

Toddler's cough natural remedies

1. Lay them upright

Because secretions tend to pool in the back of the throat when lying down, it is recommended that your toddler sleeps with some elevation under his/her upper body.

Place a pillow (or two) under their upper body. Doing so will help secretions drain better, decreasing the chances of cough attacks.

For toddlers not used to sleeping with a pillow, you can elevate their mattress instead.

When my son was younger, we placed a rolled blanket under the head of his crib. That method allowed him to have some elevation without having to use pillows.

On the other hand, my daughter loves sleeping with pillows, so keeping her elevated isn’t a problem when she coughs at night.

In addition, to ensure they can breathe better, eliminate the pacifier (if any).

2. Use Cool-Mist Humidifier

Adding moisture to the air helps keep your toddler’s airways from drying out and helps loosen mucus. In turn, easing coughing and congestion.

The best way to accomplish air moisture is to use a cool-mist humidifier in your toddler’s room overnight. You can also use it during the day in whatever room they’ll spend most of their time in.

There are many cool-mist humidifiers in the market that will get the job done and make cute room accessories. Check out these Hello Kitty and Cute Owl humidifiers.

Pediatricians tend to recommend cool-mist humidifiers vs warm-mist humidifiers or vaporizers, as they are safer for children.

However, the warm mist is a great wait to help loosen mucus and soothe an irritated airway.

Creating bathroom steam is the best way to achieve warm-mist or vapor for your toddler.

You do so by turning on the hot shower water in your bathroom and closing the door for a few minutes to contain the steam. Once you notice the steam appear,  sit in the bathroom with your toddler for a few minutes (15-20).

After a few minutes, you might notice some mucus loosening and draining. Take advantage of that and have your toddler blow a few times (or suction the mucus out).

The combination of a steamy shower just before bed and a cool-mist humidifier throughout the night will help your toddler sleep better.

3. Honey

Honey is a simple way to help soothe your toddler’s throat and ease their cough.

Experts agree that over-the-counter cough preparations in children are ineffective and might carry the risk of adverse events.

In addition, cough medicines are not recommended for children under six.

Instead, a great selection of over-the-counter honey syrups can do the job. Some of these honey syrups also contain other natural cough suppressants.

For instance, Zarbee’s Naturals Children’s Cough Syrup with Dark Honey is a popular choice. 

Zarbee’s is made with antioxidant-rich dark honey and was created by a pediatrician to provide your child with a safe and effective way to calm coughs associated with hoarseness, dry throat, and irritants.

It is also made without artificial sweeteners, flavor, or dyes.

You can also opt for good old honey.

A single dose of honey (2.5 ml) before bedtime was shown in recent studies to diminish cough and discomfort experienced by children and their parents. (Source)

Note: As per pediatricians, honey (or products containing honey) should not be administered to children under 24 months.

4. Saline Drops

Many toddlers’ nighttime coughs happen with a combination of stuffy noses and/or dried mucus.

So, to help ease your toddler’s cough, addressing the congestion issues is also a good idea. This will, in turn, help calm and soothe their nasal passages.

For a runny nose: Have your toddler blow out. If they haven’t learned how to yet, you can gently suction out some mucus.

For a congested/blocked nose: Flush out the nose with saline drops or spray. A few puffs of saline in each nostril followed by blowing or suction will help your toddlers breathe better and ease coughing.

So, using them throughout the day, especially before meals and bedtime, will help your little one eat and sleep better.

Saline drops and sprays are generally safe as they only contain salt and water.

5. Use a warm compress

Oftentimes, persistent cough irritates the chest muscles. A mild warm compress can help calm and soothe irritation and relax chest muscles.

Heating pads are too hot for young children. Instead, putting their favorite blanket in the dryer for a few minutes and placing it on their chest for a little while might help.

In our house, I use a microwavable bean bag, which works in two ways:

If they have a fever: We freeze the bean bag, put it in the puppy cover, and place it on their forehead to bring it down.

If they have a persistent cough, without a fever, We place the bean bag in the microwave at the lowest setting, put it in the puppy cover, and let them hug it. It almost always helps soothe their cough and fall asleep. The heating element in the Puppy Microwavable Bean Bag shown above, is organic proso millet, a natural material.

Note: Do not use a warm compress if they have a fever.

6. Plenty of Fluids

Ensuring your toddler has plenty of fluid during the day will help him/her stay hydrated. At night, offer your toddler small sips of cold water to help soothe their cough (if needed).

In addition, offering them cool beverages such as apple juice (avoid oranges) and Popsicles can help soothe their irritated throat and help reduce fever (if any).

7. Vapor Rubs 

Vapor rubs are another parent’s go-to for alleviating a toddler’s nighttime cough.

Honestly, Kids Vick’s VapoRub has been a lifesaver in our house.


A 2010 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that vapor rubs may effectively remedy kids’ cold symptoms.

The Pediatric study concluded, “In comparing VR (vapor rub), petrolatum, and no treatment, parents rated VR most favorably for symptomatic relief of their child’s nocturnal cough, congestion, and sleep difficulty caused by upper respiratory tract infection.”

Note:

  • Vick’s is not safe for infants and should only be used for kids over two years of age. Also, never apply Vick’s Vapor Rub to your toddler’s nose or face.
  • If you do use a vapor rub, applying it to your child’s feet might be a good idea. It may be safer than on the chest since they can touch and rub it in their eyes.

8. Essential Oils

In recent years, essential oils have gained popularity as natural remedies for many ailments and symptoms.  Some essential oils, such as Eucalyptus and Cypress, ease cough and congestion when applied on the skin or diffused into the air.

It is important to note that essential oils should be used cautiously, primarily in children.

As Healthline suggests, “Essential oils affect children differently and have not been studied. Use oils proven safe for infants, children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women.”

Note: Although some essential oils may be beneficial for easing your toddler’s nighttime cough naturally, always talk with your doctor before using them, as not all essential oils are safe for toddlers, and dosage isn’t regulated.

9. Fresh Air

Often, cough could be triggered by irritants and polluters in our homes (e.g., scents, dust particles, pets, etc.).

Taking your toddler out of the house in the cool, fresh air for a few minutes could help relieve cough symptoms.

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In Conclusion

Easing your toddler’s nighttime cough is necessary to help them rest, recover, and sleep well through the night, and it helps us keep our sanity!

Although there are many over-the-counter cough suppressants on the market, they aren’t considered safe for children under six years of age.

Thankfully for our little ones, plenty of ways exist to help ease their cough and relieve congestion.

Using a combination of the methods described above, your toddler should sleep better through the night, and hopefully, so should you.

What natural cough relief methods did your parents use on you as a child? 

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. It is strictly informational and based on personal opinions and experiences. Don’t hesitate to contact your child’s healthcare provider for diagnosis and treatment. 

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