Child Coughing at Night

When kids are sick during the night it can be exhausting for them and you. When you have a child coughing at night, all you want is relief so they can sleep. Nighttime coughs can make for some really sleepless nights. Coughing during the night can signal conditions likecolds, asthma, or even croup. There are plenty of helpful home treatments that can help quiet coughs and give you both rest. It is always a good idea to get any coughing checked by your child’s doctor to make sure it isn’t anything serious. This article will help you understand this condition better and give you some ideas of home treatments that are safe and effective.

Causes of Child Coughing at Night

The Common Cold

One of the most common causes of nighttime cough in children is a viral infection, like the common cold. It can be caused by 1 of over 100 different viruses. It is common for children to suffer from up to 10 episodes of cold every year. Colds are easily spread because children often do not remember to wash their handsand share toys, cups, and don’t cover their mouths when they cough. The virus usually lasts for up to a week and goes away on its own. The cough may even last a few weeks after the other symptoms go away.

  • Symptoms

-    Mild fever

-    Coughing

-    Stuffy nose

-    Fatigue

-    Earache

-    Sore throat

  • When to see a doctor

See your pediatrician if your child has symptoms of a severe cold that do not go away in a few days and/or get worse. Your child may need to be tested for more serious viral infections like the enterovirus D68 or influenza. It is important to get your child immediate medical help for trouble breathing or high fevers.


Asthma is a lung disease that causes inflammation in the airways which narrows them and makes breathing difficult. Mucus production increases and can cause your child coughing at night. Triggers for asthma includesecondhand smoke, pollens, food allergies, infections, and cold air at night.

  • Symptoms

-  Hacking cough

-  Wheezing

-  Trouble breathing

-  Flaring of nostrils and chest muscles

-  Tickle in the throat

  • When to See a Doctor

If your child has not been diagnosed with asthma and you notice wheezing or whistling sounds when your child breathes, see your doctor. If your child has trouble breathing, is turning pale or blue, or cannot speak, call 911 or get them to your nearest emergency room immediately.

Pertussis (Whooping Cough)

Pertussis or whooping cough can cause severe attacks of coughing during the night. When your child inhales, there is a lough whooping sound with each breath. This is becoming a more common cause of a child coughing at night and can last for hours.

Whooping cough is an infection caused by the pertussis bacteria. Normally, kids are immunized against the infection so it isn’t as common if your child is up-to-date on vaccines. Whooping cough may appear to be just a common cold.

  • Symptoms

-  Runny nose

-  Mild fever

-  Mild coughing in the early stage

-  Severe and intense coughing in the later stages

  • When to See a Doctor

If your child has symptoms that seem like a cold and the cough gets worse, see your pediatrician. This infection needs antibiotic treatment to get better.


One of the common causes of a child coughing at night is croup. This is caused by a virus that triggers inflammation of the upper windpipe and larynx (vocal chords). The swelling of the upper airway is so severe that your child “whistles” when they breathe.

  • Symptoms

-  Cough that worsens at night

-  Barking cough

-  Squeaking on inhalation

-  Fever

-  Hoarse voice

-  Trouble swallowing

-  Trouble breathing

  • When to See a Doctor

If you notice that your child is really struggling to breathe and/or turning blue around the mouth, call 911 or get to a hospital right away.

How to Care for a Child Coughing at Night

If you child suffers from night cough, here are some helpful homecare tips for relief and rest:

  • Elevate the head of the bed – Take a rolled blanket or a few extra pillows and place them under the mattress to bring the head of the bed up.
  • Use a vapor rub cream – Use a vapor rub cream with essential oils to help ease breathing at night. Make sure you use a baby formula vapor rub on kids under 10 years old.
  • Try some steam – This is especially helpful for croup. Go into the bathroom and turn the shower on hot and close the door. After about 10 minutes, open the door and take your child in. Sit with the child on your lap for about 15 minutes outside the shower and let them breathe in the air. This helps open up breathing passages and reduces inflammation in croup.
  • Humidify the air in your child’s room – One cause of a child coughing at night is air that is too dry. Use a cool-mist vaporizer in your child’s room to moisten the air.
  • Give your house a good cleaning – Mold and dust mites can cause coughing in children at night. Give your house a good dusting, vacuuming, and take any stuffed animals off your child’s bed. Keep your home free from secondhand smoke and try not to use air fresheners.
  • Increase fluid intake – Thickened mucus can make it hard for your child to breathe. Giving them more fluids during the day will help thin out secretions. Allow your child to keep water next to the bed and encourage drinking.
  • Have them blow their nose – Teach your child to blow their nose into a tissue before bed. Postnasal drip at night can increase coughing.
  • Make herbal tea with honey before bed – Brew up a cup of herbal tea usingmullein leaf, licorice, or cherry bark. Add in a teaspoon of honey to help soothe the throat.
  • Gargle with warm salt water – Warm some water and stir in a teaspoon of salt. Teach your child to gargle and spit the water back out. This is one of the best cough remedies and safe for your child.

For more instructions on how to deal with a cough in children, please watch this video:


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