Coughing won't stop!

Q Our daughter’s been coughing every night for a week. Would running a humidifier help?


A Coughing in young children can be especially difficult to deal with! 

Often the cough can linger for longer periods than typical for older children or adults.

This is partly because a younger child may not be able to generate the same force to cough up all the mucous that is likely with an upper-respiratory viral illness. Typical cold viruses can result in a cough that lasts up to two weeks. 

Adding moisture into the air could definitely help. 
I recommend using a cool-air humidifier. Warm-air models can cause burns if knocked over because the water and the machine can get quite hot. 

If you don’t have a humidifier, you can run hot water in the shower or bath (without the child in it) and fill the bathroom with steam. Have your daughter sit in the steamy bathroom prior to bedtime to add some moisture into her airways. 

You can also treat the nasal drainage associated with a cough caused by a cold or virus. Because this drainage can run down the back of the throat, it can easily aggravate a cough. 

Nasal suctioning as well as nasal washes or saline nasal sprays can help.

Cough medicine isn’t recommended because it hasn’t been found to be any more effective than the home remedy of honey. 

Honey is OK as long as the child is older than 1 year. For children younger than 1 year, no cough medicine is recommended either. 

If the cough lasts longer than two weeks — or seems to get worse instead of better — consult with your pediatrician.


Kimara Gustafson works as a pediatrician at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis. Write her at