Kids · Toddlers

9 Ways to Relieve a Toddler’s Night Time Cough Naturally

Ohh the sleepless nights! A toddler’s night time cough can leave them (and us) feeling exhausted and irritable. However, you can help relieve your toddler’s night time cough naturally by using any (or a combination) of these 9 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 night time 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 the cough in the first place. So, ensure to speak to your child’s pediatrician to get a diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

In the meant time, for the purpose of this article, we will be focusing on 9 ways you can relieve your toddler’s night time 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 night time?

As previously stated, there are many reasons as to why your toddler might be coughing at night time. A common cold, allergies, or asthma, for instance, might be the culprit.

However, if your toddler’s cough appears to be whooping, wheezy, or accompanied by a high fever, it is important he/she is 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, cough can sound awful, but usually isn’t a sign of a serious condition. (Source)

In addition, a toddler’s cough, especially 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 a lot of prayers, I have narrowed it down to 9 tried and true methods for cough relief.

If your toddler’s night time cough is related to a cold or virus, read on. The following 9 toddler’s night time cough remedies will give your toddler, and you, some much-needed rest.

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

7  Toddler’s Cough Remedies

Toddler's cough natural remedies

1. Lay them upright

Because secretions tend pool in the back of the throat when laying 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, hence decreasing the chances of cough attacks.

For toddlers that aren’t used to sleeping with a pillow, you can elevate their mattress instead.

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

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

In addition, to ensure they are able to 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 be spending most of their time.

The are many cool-mist humidifiers in the market that will get the job done and make cute room accessories.

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

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

The best wait to achieve warm-mist or vapor for your toddler is to create a bathroom steam.

You do so by turning turn on the hot shower water in your bathroom and close 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 of the mucus start to loosen and drain. Make sure you 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 help soothe your toddler’s though and ease their cough.

Experts agree that over-the-counter preparations for cough in children are not effective and might carry the risk of adverse events.

In addition, cough medicines are not recommended for any children under 6 years of age.

Instead, there is a great selection of over-the-counter honey syrups that can get the job done. In fact, 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 the discomfort experienced by children and their parents. (Source)

Note: As per pediatricians, honey (or products containing honey) should not be administered to children under 12 months.

4. Saline Drops

Many toddler’s night time coughs happen with a combination of stuffy nose and/or dried mucus.

So to help ease your toddler’s cough it is a good idea to also address the congestion issues. This will in turn will help calm and soother 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 their 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.

Saline drops and sprays are generally safe to use as they are made up of only salt and water. So, using them throughout the day, especially before meals and bedtime, will help your little one eat and sleep better.

5. Use a warm compress

Often times, 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 in their forehead to bring the fever down.

If they have a persistent cough, without a fever: We place the bean bag in the microwave at the lowest setting, place it in the puppy cover, and let them hug it. It almost always helps soother their cough and fall asleep.

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 time 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 orange) 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 when it comes to alleviating a toddler’s night time cough.

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


In a 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics, they found that the vapor rubs may be an effective remedy for kids’ cold symptoms.

The Pediatric study concluded, “In a comparison of 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 2 years of age. Additionally, never apply Vick’s Vapor Rub on 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 it 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 are said to ease cough and congestion when applied on the skin or diffused into the air.

With that said it is important to note that essential oils should be used with caution, especially when used in children.

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

Note: Although some essential oils may be beneficial for easing your toddler’s night time 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 times cough could be trigger by irritants and polluters in our own homes (e.g. scents, dust particles, pets, etc.).

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

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In Conclusion

Easing your toddler’s night time cough is a necessary step to help them rest, recover, sleep well through the night, and well… help us keep our sanity!

Although there are many over-the-counter cough suppressants in the market, they aren’t considered safe for children under  6 years of age.

Thankfully for our little ones there are still plenty of ways 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 when you were a child? 

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. It is strictly for informational purposes only and based on personal opinion and experiences. For diagnosis and treatment please contact your child’s healthcare provider. 

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