Does steam help a babys cough?

In this article

  • 1. Lots of rest to cope with the illness (all ages)
  • 2. Steam or moist air for congestion (all ages)
  • 3. A bulb syringe (best for babies) and nasal saline drops for a blocked nose
  • 4. Extra fluids to stay hydrated (all ages)
  • 5. Honey to soothe a sore throat (1 year and up)
  • 6. Elevating the head to ease congestion (1 year and up)
  • 7. Vapour rub to ease cough and cold symptoms (2 years and up)
  • 8. Nose blowing to get rid of mucus (2 years and up)
  • 9. A jal neti pot to clear the nose (4 years and up)
  • 10. Gargling with salt water to soothe a sore throat (4 years and up)

When your child has a cough or cold, some natural home remedies can help her feel better. Extra rest, fluids, steam inhalation and using a nasal bulb can ease your baby's symptoms. For older children, you can also include gargling, warm drinks and using a jal neti pot. Always keep your baby's age in mind when trying these remedies, as some are not suitable for young babies.

1. Lots of rest to cope with the illness (all ages)

It takes energy to fight an infection, and that can wear a child out. When your child rests, she's healing, which is exactly what she needs to do.

Don't worry if your baby is sleeping more than usual while she's sick. Let her go to bed a little earlier than usual or sleep in a little later, if you can. Your baby may even want an extra nap.

At the same time, getting an uncomfortably sick baby to sleep soundly can be challenging. If your child doesn’t want to rest in bed all day, a change of scenery can be helpful. If the weather is good, you could set up a comfortable place in the balcony, verandah or garden. However, don’t leave her unattended.

Indoors, make something more fun than her bed, like a tent in a snug area near you. Or perhaps, she may enjoy some time in an indoor swing or a rocking chair.

If your child finds it hard to rest, help her by cuddling up with some books. Read her a story or give her a colouring book. She can also listen to some soothing music that might help her drift off to sleep.

Things to keep in mind:
Limit screen time. It's fine to watch a short show or play a game with her, but giving your child a device as an easy escape to calm or distract her when she's bored or restless can have a negative effect. The more time children spend watching screens, particularly in the evening, the less sleep they get.

Always try to stick to your child's usual routines at nap time and bedtime. Try to get her as comfy as you can before she falls asleep. This includes a warm bath, changing her clothing and keeping the room at a comfortable temperature.

2. Steam or moist air for congestion (all ages)

Breathing moist or humid air helps loosen the mucus in the nose. A warm bath will also relax your child.

To moisten the air, you can get a cool-mist humidifier, steamer or vapouriser. All you need to do is leave the gadget in the room where your child is sleeping, resting, or playing. As the air gets humid, your child will breathe easier.

If you do not have any of these items at home, a quick-fix solution is letting your child breathe in steamy air in the bathroom.

Learn more about how to offer steam to your baby.

Things to keep in mind:
If you use a steamer, facial steamer or humidifier, make sure your child does not come close to the steam.

Steam burns just as badly, if not worse, than hot water. Always keep the electronic gadget well out of your child’s reach, but in a place that will allow the steam or mist to circulate in the room.

If you use a humidifier, be sure to clean it often according to the manufacturer’s directions. Humidifiers can build up mould, which they spray into the air if they’re not kept very clean. Leaving them on for too long can also create an environment suitable for growth of fungus.

Many recommend adding one or two drops of eucalyptus, or pine essential oil to the bath water or the vapouriser or steamer). If you'd like to try this, check with your doctor first. Some essential oils are not safe for young children. Also, some strong smelling oils can cause irritation.

If you keep your child in a steamy bathroom, her clothes might get damp. Change her clothes immediately after to prevent her from feeling cold and uncomfortable.

3. A bulb syringe (best for babies) and nasal saline drops for a blocked nose

A bulb syringe (nasal aspirator) clears the nose of babies who are too young to blow their own nose. It is helpful if a stuffy nose gets in the way of your baby’s breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. Try using it about 15 minutes before feeding your child.

Using a bulb syringe works best for young babies, but if your older baby or child doesn’t mind it, there’s no reason not to do it.

You can get a bulb syringe, and sterile saline nose drops at a chemist or pharmacy. You can also make saline water at home. Dissolve about half a teaspoon of salt in one cup of boiled and cooled water.

You can also use distilled or sterile water that you can buy from your local chemist. Make a fresh batch each day and store it in a clean, covered glass jar or bottle, to prevent germs from entering.

To use saline drops:

  • 1. Tip your child's head back, or lay her on her back with a rolled-up towel supporting her head.
  • 2. Squeeze two or three drops of saline solution into each nostril.
  • 3. Gently massage your child's nostrils. Wait a minute or two for the saline solution to thin and soften the mucus before suctioning.

To suction with a bulb syringe:

  • 1. Squeeze the bulb of the syringe, then gently insert the rubber tip into your baby's nostril. Some doctors also recommend gently closing the other nostril with your finger to get better suction from the bulb syringe.
  • 2. Slowly release the bulb to collect mucus and saline solution.
  • 3. Remove the syringe and squeeze the bulb to expel the mucus into a tissue.
  • 4. Wipe the syringe and repeat with the other nostril.
  • 5. Repeat if necessary.
  • 6. Clean the bulb syringe with warm, soapy water.

Things to keep in mind:
If you’d like to try this method, speak to your child’s paediatrician first. She will show you how to use the bulb syringe correctly so that it doesn’t cause any injuries or trauma to your child’s nasal cavity.

Don't suction your child's nose more than a few times a day, or you might irritate the nasal lining. Don't use saline drops for more than four days in a row because they can dry out your baby's nose over time, making things worse.

If your baby gets upset when you use an aspirator, try using just saline drops instead. Squirt a small amount into their nose, then gently massage their nose and use a cotton swab or soft handkerchief to swipe just within the outer edge of the nostrils. Be careful not to insert the swab inside the nostrils.

If your child's nose is irritated from rubbing or blowing, apply a little petroleum jelly, baby oil or other child-safe ointment on the outside of their nose. Use a wet cotton swab to remove any sticky mucus around the nose.

Don't use nasal decongestant sprays on your baby or young child unless advised by your doctor. Also, don’t use any herbal treatments or oils unless you have the green light from your doctor. Some remedies may not be suitable for young children and may cause side-effects.

4. Extra fluids to stay hydrated (all ages)

For babies under six months

Your baby will feel better when well hydrated, and the extra fluids can help thin nasal secretions, too. Breastfeeding or formula feeding more frequently is the best way to keep your baby well-hydrated. If your baby is having trouble at the breast or bottle because of stuffiness, try suctioning their nose first.

For babies six months and older

Warm, clear liquids can be very soothing and help relieve congestion for babies 6 months and older. Scientists have actually examined the ingredients in chicken soup and concluded that it's no myth: This old-fashioned remedy may help relieve cold symptoms such as congestion. Broth is a good alternative for babies who are still getting accustomed to solid foods.

Traditionally, mothers prefer to give warm liquids such as soups, Holy basil and ginger water (tulsi aur adrak ka pani), besan ka sheera, dal soup and so on. Serve liquids warm, not hot.

Many mothers also find that cool liquids are just as helpful and comforting for their child, especially in the summer. You may like to try homemade fresh juices, nimbu pani, coconut water, fruit smoothies, lassi, chaach and ice lollies made from juice.

Things to keep in mind:
Stick to breastmilk for babies younger than six months old. Breastfed babies don’t need extra water, even in hot weather. Just offer frequent breastfeeds to quench your baby's thirst and to keep her hydrated. Formula-fed babies and babies on solids can have extra water.

Don’t give your baby packaged fruit juices, carbonated drinks, energy drinks, tea or coffee. While some herbal teas may be safe, others have potentially undesirable effects, and some are toxic. Always check with your doctor before giving your baby any kind of drink or herbal preparations.

5. Honey to soothe a sore throat (1 year and up)

Honey coats and soothes the throat and helps tame a cough. However, your child must be at least a year old to try this remedy.

Some people mix honey with hot water and add a squeeze of lemon, which provides a little vitamin C along with the soothing honey. Another popular traditional remedy for colds (especially a sore throat) includes mixing honey with a bit of ginger juice and a dash of black pepper.

Things to keep in mind:
Never give honey to a baby younger than a year old. In rare cases, it can cause infant botulism, a dangerous and sometimes fatal illness.

Because honey is a form of sugar, it can be damaging to your child’s teeth. It’s important that your child brushes her teeth after she takes it, especially if you give it to her at bedtime.

6. Elevating the head to ease congestion (1 year and up)

Raising your child’s head while she rests can help her breathe more comfortably. You can raise her mattress with the help of towels or pillows.

If your child sleeps in a cot, place the towels or slim pillow between the mattress and the cot. Don’t try to raise the legs of her bed or cot by placing bricks or boards, as it could make the cot unstable.

If your child shares the family bed, an extra pillow under her head might do the trick. But, if she twists and turns while she sleeps, it’s better to raise the head of the mattress instead. This also creates a more gradual, comfortable slope than extra pillows under her head.

Things to keep in mind:
Be careful not to crowd the cot or bed with pillows. Keep checking on your child. If your child is a restless sleeper, she might flip around so that her feet are higher than her head, defeating the purpose.

Remember, pillows are not recommended for babies under the age of one. Any kind of pillow, soft object and loose bedding can obstruct an infant's airway and pose a suffocation risk. These have also been linked to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), also known as cot death.

If your baby is walking or climbing, be extra cautious. She could try climbing over the pillows or getting out of bed. Falling from the bed or an elevated place could cause serious injuries.

7. Vapour rub to ease cough and cold symptoms (2 years and up)

Vapour rubs may ease breathing and coughing as the warmth of your child's body helps release the medication into the air for them to breathe.

However, keep in mind that most paediatricians do not recommend using vapour rub on babies and toddlers younger than two years as it can cause irritation and make them uncomfortable.

If you’re still keen to use vapour rub for your older toddler, speak to your child’s doctor. She can recommend vapour rub products made especially for young children. The adult variety is not suitable for small children.

Things to keep in mind:
You should always speak to your doctor before using vapour rub for your toddler. When you have the go-ahead, follow her instructions.

Don’t apply vapour rub anywhere on your child's face, including her mouth, nose, inside the nostrils or around her eyes. Only apply it on the chest and back. Also, don’t put it on broken or sensitive skin.

Even if you'd like to use natural or herbal rubs, check with your doctor first. Some have ingredients that may not be suitable for young children. Also, some may have very strong smells that could worsen your child's symptoms.

Never use the adult variety vapour on your child. Always check the recommended age for any product you buy.

8. Nose blowing to get rid of mucus (2 years and up)

Clearing the nose of mucus helps your child breathe and sleep more easily, and generally makes her feel more comfortable. Many children don’t master this skill until after age four, but some are able to by age two.

Tips for teaching nose blowing:

  • Let your child copy you. For some children, that’s all it takes.
  • Explain that blowing your nose is "backward smelling."
  • Have your child hold one nostril shut and practice gently blowing air out one side. A mirror or a little piece of tissue under the nose will help her see her breath.
  • Teach her to blow gently into a tissue. Blowing too hard can hurt her ears.
  • If your child’s nose is sore from all the sniffling and blowing, you can rub a little petroleum jelly or other child-safe ointment around the outside rim of her nostrils.

Things to keep in mind:
It's best to use disposable tissues that can be thrown away easily in a covered bin.

Teach her to throw away used tissues in a covered dustbin and to wash her hands or use a sanitiser after blowing her nose.

If you choose to use a handkerchief, ensure you replace and wash a dirty handkerchief frequently.

9. A jal neti pot to clear the nose (4 years and up)

A jal neti pot, also known as a neti pot, flushes a mild saline solution through the nasal passages. It moisturises the area and thins, loosens, and rinses away mucus. Think of it as nasal irrigation.

This is a popular yogic nasal cleansing technique also known as 'jal neti'. Roughly translated, it means cleansing with water.

A neti pot looks like a very small watering can or teapot, and is typically ceramic or metal. Neti pots are available at several chemist shops, ayurvedic stores and online.

You'll also need saline solution. Either store-bought or homemade works. If you make your own, mix a pinch of table salt with 1 cup of warm water.

Here's the basic method for jal neti:

  • Fill the neti pot with warm water or saline solution.
  • Bending over a sink, tilt your head to one side, breathe through your mouth, and place the spout of the pot deep in the top nostril. The water will flow gently through the nasal cavity and out of the other nostril.
  • Wipe the spout and repeat on the other side.

Let your child watch you use it, and then help them if she's up for it. Tilt your child's head sideways over the sink, and place the spout of the pot in her top nostril. Then gently pour water or saline solution from the neti pot through the nasal passages to clean and moisturize them.

This may take a little trial and error, but it's easy once you get the hang of it. At first, you may want to practice with your child in the tub or shower.

Don't force your child to use a neti pot if she doesn’t want to. This needs to be a very gentle procedure – it isn't painful but does feel strange at first. It's definitely not for babies or young toddlers, and older children (and even adults) might not go for it.

Things to keep in mind:
Though you can watch videos of people using a neti pot to see how it works, it's best to learn the technique from a professional. Many yoga instructors are qualified to teach jal neti. Try practising on yourself before teaching your child to use a neti pot. Let your child watch you use it. If she agrees to try it, help her to use it.

Only use store-bought distilled or sterile water, or boiled and cooled tap water. Untreated tap water may contain germs that can survive in nasal passages and cause infection.

10. Gargling with salt water to soothe a sore throat (4 years and up)

Gargling with salt water is a time-honoured way to soothe a sore throat the world over. It also helps clear mucus from the throat and ease congestion.

It is also a very simple remedy. Put half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and stir. If your child doesn't mind the taste, a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice can be a soothing addition.

Many kids won't learn to gargle until they're school-age or older, but some children can manage it sooner.

A few tips for teaching your child to gargle:

  • Practise with plain water.
  • Ask your child to tilt her head up and try to hold the water in the back of her throat without swallowing it.
  • Once she's comfortable doing that, have her try to make sounds with her throat. Show her what that looks and sounds like.
  • Teach her to spit out the water rather than swallow it.

Aim to have your child gargle three or four times a day while she's sick. Have a younger child gargle only if they're willing, and it makes them feel better.

Things to keep in mind:
Always check the temperature of the water, especially if you have heated it in a microwave. The cup may appear cooler outside, but the water can be hot enough to cause burns.

Always use filtered, or boiled warm water for gargles.

हिंदी में पढ़ें! बच्चे को सर्दी-जुकाम के लक्षणों से राहत देने के लिए 10 सुरक्षित घरेलू उपाय

Read more on:

  • Baby growth spurts
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Is steam inhalation good for babies?

The moist air can help to loosen the mucus in your child's nose, nasal passage and throat and make it easier for him to breathe. Apart from loosening mucus, it may also help to soothe symptoms of sinus, congestion, coughs and sore throats.

How long should I steam my baby's cough?

Run a hot shower to create a steam-filled bathroom where you can sit with your child for 20 minutes. Take your child outside during cooler months for a few minutes. This may help breathing.

Is it safe to steam a baby?

If you use a steamer, facial steamer or humidifier, make sure your child does not come close to the steam. Steam burns just as badly, if not worse, than hot water. Always keep the electronic gadget well out of your child's reach, but in a place that will allow the steam or mist to circulate in the room.

What is the fastest way to cure baby cough?

Coughing Fits or Spells - Warm Mist and Fluids:.
Breathe warm mist, such as with shower running in a closed bathroom..
Give warm clear fluids to drink. Examples are apple juice and lemonade..
Age less than 6 months. ... .
Age 6 - 12 months of age. ... .
Reason: Both relax the airway and loosen up any phlegm..