Cold and Flu Season :: Five Natural Cough Remedies


It’s that time of year when everyone seems to be coughing. Whether it’s from a cold, RSV, the flu, or just a bit of drainage, you can’t go anywhere in public without the sound of someone hacking. 

five natural cough remedies

We’ve Been Hit! 

Of course it was bound to happen. With two children in daycare, we were doomed from the start. The first coughs sprung up in our household weeks ago, and we have been dealing with it ever since! 

I am no fan of cold medicines (for adults or children), so how do we help to relieve incessant coughing at our house? Thankfully, I have found some natural cough remedies that work well for us.

Five Natural Cough Remedies

1. Pull out that humidifier.

A device like this is recommended for breaking up mucus and congestion. Humidifiers also help provide short-term relief during sleep. The key to this one is starting it up early. At the first sign of coughing, use the humidifier every night and be consistent if you want results. Don’t forget to clean them regularly and remember: cool mist only in children’s rooms! This is the best natural option for children under age one.

2. Elevate the bed.

Something as simple as a stack of pillows or an elevated mattress can make a huge difference if the culprit of the coughing is drainage. We were OK’d to put a textbook under our son’s crib mattress as early as four months to relieve congestion. But always consult your pediatrician on this one for young kiddos and be sure to follow guidelines for safe sleep. 

3. Suction.

If your kid has signs of congestion or drainage, never underestimate the power of some good suction with saline. It can give small kids (and little babies) coughing relief equivalent to a nasal rinse. Bulb suction is okay, but we like this nifty device for more efficient and effective suction. I know it seems gross, but isn’t it worth it if you all get more rest as a result? 

five natural cough remedies

4. Try a homemade tea.

A homemade tea like this one can do wonders for cough relief. It will give their little throats a break from all the hacking, plus it has the added benefit of keeping your kids hydrated. Remember to avoid use of any honey in babies under one year old.

If you don’t have the time or ingredients for a tea, try a teaspoon of plain honey before bedtime. Honey coats the throat and has been shown to have the exact same effectiveness as over-the-counter cold medicines.

5. Take a hot shower.

I often had terrible coughs as a kid. I remember cranking up my parents’ shower and bringing a good book into their bathroom to read in the hot steam. My coughs always got better even though my books were never quite the same again! It turns out, warm steam in a nice, long shower (or sitting in a steam room if you have the luxury), can be an extremely effective remedy for coughing in both adults and older kids. With younger children, body temperature and burns are a concern, so hot steam is not advised.

five natural cough remedies

Important Note

Please do not ignore the warning signs that your child’s cough is more than just a cough. I asked my amazing sister — who is a pediatric nurse — what caregivers should be on the lookout for with coughs.

She shared these red flags:

  • wheezing or stridorous breathing (a high-pitched sound on inhalation), and
  • intercostal retractions (when their chest retracts around their ribs upon inhalation

Both are signs that your child needs immediate medical attention. If your child has a particularly junky and persistent cough, a visit to the pediatrician for evaluation is warranted.

How About You?

What’s your favorite natural remedy during cough, cold, and flu season? And if you have any remedies not listed above, please share them in the comments below!

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Katie is a native of Birmingham who moved out to the Bay Area for grad school and the start of her teaching career. After three years of 24/7 traffic and studio apartment living, she moved back to Birmingham and now lives in Homewood with her husband of three years, William. While enjoying Birmingham’s ample parking and fabulous people, Katie and William welcomed their children, Ava (2 1/2 years old) and Otto (1 1/2 years old). After teaching for four years, Katie became a SAHM to Ava and Otto. She and William are now anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby #3 in October 2019. When Katie is not contemplating the engineering feat of fitting three car seats into her vehicle or the logistics of being outnumbered by three toddlers, she enjoys gardening and cooking with her kids. She uses her educational background to teach her toddler about cooking and baking, chronicling their creations on her blog ( Now that the dreaded “all day” sickness has (mostly) subsided, you can find her cooking up new dishes and eyeing fresh produce at Pepper Place, breakfast burrito in hand.