32 answers

20 Month Old Won't Stop Coughing

My 20 month old son keeps waking up at about 4am and coughs on and off until he eventually wakes up at 7:30am. This started about 4 nights ago. He did have a cold a few weeks ago...could this be the reminants of that? He has no other signs of being sick, and he doesn't cough that much throughout the day. The interrupted sleep is starting to catch up to him, this morning he has bags under his eyes :( I actually had the same issue about a month ago, where I would wake up and cough, but I would just eat a cough drop and go back to sleep. I can't give him a cough drop, and I just saw the news special about how children under 2 shouldn't get cough medicine. I have not called his pediatrician yet, but will if none of the suggestions I receive work. Does anyone have any solutions for me to try? Oh yeah, and did I mention that I don't really go back to sleep after he starts coughing either?? The cough is just a regular cough, nothing deep or wheezy. When I had it, it was like my throat was dry and I had to cough to make it not dry. Mine eventually went away after a few weeks, but I'm hoping his doesn't last that long.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I called the doctor this morning and he said there is a cough going around, and that he can take 1/2 tsp of Delsym before bed. He said if he runs a fever then to bring him in, otherwise it should only last a week or so. I'm also going to put a humidifier in his room. Thanks everyone.

Featured Answers

When my son has had issues with coughing at night we have put a pillow under his mattress to elevate his head.

I had heard that if you spread a thin layer of Vicks vapor rub (or the store brand) on his feet and put thick socks on him before he goes to bed it will supress the cough.. I tried it with my 8 month old and it seemed to work pretty well. Good luck!!

It sounds like post nasal drip from sinuses. I just read an email recently about putting Vicks on the bottom of feet to help suppress coughing. I tried it myself, and it did help some. I slept much better and didn't cough much at all. I had bronchitis. It certainly would be worth a try with a little one!

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There are homeopathic remedies that can be used for such a thing. If you are not familiar with them you can go to Whole Foods and someone there can help you choose the one you need. You will need to explain that it happens at night and it will be very important to explain to them what kind of cough it is - dry, hoarse, with mucus, etc. Homeopathic remedies are little tiny pellets. My daughter took them at 20 months, but would chew them up instead of suck them like you are supposed to. When she was younger our homeopath just had us disolve one or two pellets in water, and then drop some of the water into her mouth with a little eye dropper. They work wonders, and of course, are all natural.

My 5 yr old just had the same thing. After about 4 or 5 nights it gradually go better and is completely gone now. I was able to give him cough medicine though. You could probably call your Dr to see what you could give OTC and the correct dosage. That is what I have always done in the past. I hope your little one gets better soon!

I would try a humidifier with vicks vapor. That may help clear him up and keep his throat moist. I have two boys now 18 & soon to be 16. Jake formed a habit of getting up and did that until he was well into his 3's. Make sure he's not running a low temp. That would be a sign that it may have turned into bronchitis. Also make sure whatever he is coughing up hasn't changed color. If it continues another couple of days I would schedule an appointment just to be sure nothing has developed.

My son had that cough that lasted forever too. We just ran the vaporizer with the solumel and melaleuca oil in it until it cleared up. it did eventually, but it did last a few weeks. we were wondering when it would go away. there were no other symptoms either, just the coughing that lasted after his little cold went away. it was weird! but he's all better now.


This may sound strange, but I just got an email regarding a great non-medication resolution for coughing! Actually haven't tried it yet as none of my 8 have a cough at the moment, but I'm definitely trying it next time! Try rubbing some Vicks vaporub on his feet and put him to bed with socks on. MAKE SURE YOU KNOW HE WON'T TAKE THE SOCKS OFF AND TRY TO PUT HIS FEET IN HIS MOUTH! : ) I have heard from more than one source that this works, so I hope it's worth a try. I liked it because it doesn't involve me medicating my kids either. Hope this helps!

If he has no other signs of congestion or other cold symptoms I would suggest using a cool mist humidifier. The heat maybe too dry. Just remember to put in distilled water and not tap water.

Try putting a humidifier in his room. Start it about thirty minutes before he goes to bed. Like you, his nasal passages are probably dry. (If your having the cold, cold weather like alot of us, the heat is running more often at home.) Also, you can try turning the shower on in the bathroom, running hot water, then sit with him (maybe read a book) on the toilet. A third possiblilty is "Little Noses." These are saline (salt water) nose drops you can spray in his nose.

Both my kids had stuffy nose issues. They are now 10 and 6.

Hope this helps,

It sounds like post nasal drip from sinuses. I just read an email recently about putting Vicks on the bottom of feet to help suppress coughing. I tried it myself, and it did help some. I slept much better and didn't cough much at all. I had bronchitis. It certainly would be worth a try with a little one!

Try a humidifier. Perhaps he is coughing b/c of dry air due to the heater. I have to keep one in my room and my 22 month old's room.
About me:
3 boys- 8,5,and 22 months

My son had the same thing but he had viral induced asthma so I would give him a nebulizer treatment and that would sometimes do the trick. I did call the pediatrician and there is no medicine that you can give him :( Do you have a humidifier in his room, that may help.

Our daughter had similar trouble with her cough last winter. We tried everything but unfortunately nothing works. Her pediatrician was not able to determine the cause of her cough and did not prescribe her with anything but told us that we need to make her drink plenty of fluid.
In the end, my husband did some research and bought a bottle of Astragalus (it is a liquid herbal extract). We bought it from Ellwood Thompson. We would put 20-30 drops in her juice 2x a day - or preferably before she goes to sleep at night.
On top of that, I went ahead and just rub vicks vaporub on her chest and back every night before she goes to bed and kept her in fleece PJs.
Within 3-4days, she was back to being herself, no coughing. She was able to get her normal 10hrs of sleep every night and she hadn't been sick since.

Note: My husband and I both work full time. Out daughter is now 4yrs old and is in pre-school 5-day/wk. The 3 of us are slowly transitioning our eating habit to raw food diet. We have done alot of research ever since our daughter was born and now prefers to treat our daughter (and ourselves) with natural remedy that is not only safe but also healthy for her and us as a family. My suggestion is that you do some research on Astragalus prior to purchasing it or seek advise from the representative at Ellwood Thompson - just to be sure that you have all the right information you need for your child.

Good luck!

- R. D.

Maybe his throat is drying out through the night, expecially if his nose gets stuffy and he starts breathing through his mouth. Try a vaporizer in his room, and see if you can get the humidity in the home up around 50%. In the winter, indoor air is very dry, and it could be the culprit.

I would like to tell you what I found out when I coughed for several months. I had bought a memory foam mattress pad. From Spring till Fall I had this very annoying cough. Especially at night. Went to three or four doctors and know one had an answer. One night has I was in bed and thought back to the fact that we had purchased a memory foam pad in the Spring.

I went on the Internet at 11:30 pm and put in Google - memory foam dangers. It came up with a sight where over 200 others people had had simple problems and it was their memory foam pad. I got ride of it and the cough went away. Yeah.

Now I am having some problems again with coughing and I am suspecting it may be from fleece bankets that I use a lot. I just thought about this possibility. Have found some information which may support that. Good luck with your baby. I am 72 yrs. old and never had allergies, but am find now that I may. The memory foam never did bother my husband, but it sure did me.

Hi K.,

Does he have labored breathing with the cough? (shoulders, chest heaving?) Get him into the doctor just to be sure he's not developing asthma and that his chest is indeed clear. My son has viral induced asthma and the ONLY thing that aids his cough is the medication through the nebulizer. It's often in the middle of the night that he has an attack. Hope this helps you.......

K., mother of 3

I had heard that if you spread a thin layer of Vicks vapor rub (or the store brand) on his feet and put thick socks on him before he goes to bed it will supress the cough.. I tried it with my 8 month old and it seemed to work pretty well. Good luck!!

When my son has had issues with coughing at night we have put a pillow under his mattress to elevate his head.

Hi K.,

Have you tried putting Vicks on the soles of his feet? I know it sounds wacky but I received a link about this several weeks ago and tried it on my kids - it worked! My kids stopped coughing within 5 minutes!

One mom's doctor cautionned against putting Vicks on the chest and back for infants and young children whose lungs are still developing.

I'll see if I can find this link, but try to google it, in the meantime!

All the best,

LOVE IS IN THE AIR! This Valentine's Day, strengthen your relationships and enhance your passion!


My son went through the same thing when he was about 22 months old. After a visit to the pediatrician, I found out that he had mucus in his lungs due to a previous cold. The pediatrician called his condition pneumonitis. His pediatrician stated that sometimes it is difficult for toddlers to cough the mucus out. I recommend a trip to the pediatrician.

Also try a cool mist humidifier during bedtime.

My son is 3 and he coughs sometimes at night and since I refuse to give him over the counter cough medicine I put some Vicks Vapor Rub and water in a potporii (however you spell it) burner and leave that one at night.....I have an electrical one, I wouldn't recommend one with a candle. Another thing that my grandmother tried...she put Vicks on his feet then put socks on him. I know it sounds crazy but she said it worked.

You should call your pediatrician. It could be something as simple as post nasal drip (which a lot of times you don't see any other symptoms from), or it could be bronchial spasms and may need some meds. Don't give him cough medicine!!!
Good luck!

I would suggest putting a humidifier in his room. I bet it's from the dry air we get because it's winter time.

I would call the pediatrician. My 6-yr old daughter is going thru something similar right now. She had her cough for about 6-8 weeks with no other symptoms. I tried cool mist & warm mist humidifiers, warm liquids, propping her up in bed - nothing seemed to help. the last straw was when she started coughing to the point where she would vomit.
The 1st dr said he thought she might have allergies or a sinus infection and the post nasal drip was causing the cough & put her on Amoxicillian, Claritin, & a DM Cough Med. After a week her cough was no better, it was actually worse.
We saw a 2nd dr in the practice and he ordered a CT scan of her sinus cavity and a chest x-ray and changed her to Augmentin & took her off the Claritin. The CT scan showed that she had severe sinusitus, which was very surprising to me since she had none of the "clasic" signs - no nasal discharge, no fever, etc.
I've learned my lesson - Better to err on the side of caution and call the pediatrician.

I would try using a humidifier.My daughter had the same problem and this really helped her.You can pick up one at just about any where for around twenty bucks.Defaintly worth it.

My son has had a similiar lingering cough. We find that using a humidifier really helps! Good luck.

My name is J. and I am a mom of 2. I had a chronic cough when I was little, around 4 until I was in high school-I just had to grow out of it. However, my oldest daughter has a cough at times. She is 2 1/2 and it worried me. I took her to the doctor the first time and she said she was okay unless it kept up for several weeks. After 3 weeks I took her agin and she had a sinus infection. I am very watchful with a cough because it could easily turn into bronchitis,pnemonia, etc if it is not taken care of. If I were you I would wait 2-3 more days to see if it stops. If it doesn't stop then I would make a doctor's appointment becasue I know that with a sinus infection you don't have to feel that bad, nor do you have to have a fever. I have had many of them in various stages and the sooner you can tkae him to the doctor to find out the better is what I say :).

When my son did this, these were recommendations from our pediatricians:
Run a cool-mist humidifier in his room.
Try a Vicks Vapo Plug (or similar) at night.
Prop his head up with an extra pillow, or put a pillow under the sheet at the head of his bed (we actually bought a "wedge" from Babies R Us which is used for acid reflux babies, etc.).
Give him clear liquids before bed & avoid milk as close to bedtime as you can.
Use nose drops to clear sinus congestion.
Hope this helps.

There is a nasty virus going around with lots of mucus involved and my son has it too. I have been putting vicks on him (actually on his pj's since he's nly 18mos) and that helps a lot. I've been doing the same for myself b/c I have the same thing and it will cease the coughing right away and we both are sleeping better! Hope that helps:) ...oh or use a humidifier

Hi K., I don't want to make you nervous - could just be a cough, but I thought I'd share my story. My 8 year old has asthma. When she was a baby, she'd have a cold for 2 weeks, but the cough would linger for another 3 weeks! I couldn't ever figure out why. When she was 4, she only had this cough and I was so nervous about visiting my sister, her husband and their new baby. I had to keep my daughter quarantined half the trip, as she kept coughing. She was then diagnosed with asthma, which is very common in MD (unfortunately). Many kids have to have nebulizer treatment (inhale machine). My daughter takes a Singulaire pill every night and this, luckily, keeps her asthma under control. She also has a Pulmicort (steroid) inhaler and Albuterol, which she uses after a cold or anytime that she seems to be coughing.
-S. A.

Hi K.,

First you can try a combo of lemon juice/honey (ever so slightly warmed) by teaspoons at a time. Maybe one or two -- that's all you'll need. Sometimes that's enough to sooth the throat. Sometimes it doesn't work.

Do you have a humidifer in the room? I suggest you get a little portable one or even one of the vick's little ones from the drug store. The moisture may help.

Thirdly, watch for allergies. Dust is a hard one in the winter. This, coming from a mom of a 7 year old who has bad allergies. Coughing can be a symptom. But there are other signs too but sometimes it's hard to say. And often allergies can manifest under 1 year and then they peak around age 2-3.

Good luck!

Do you have a cool mist humidifier on in his room? That's helped my son quite a bit. He had a cough for over a month. Also, try propping his mattress a bit so he's not lying flat...

have you tried a humidifier? it can make a world of difference. i recently read that indoor air during the winter can become more dry than a desert. this is because of how we heat our air. and if the air is too dry your body may try to compensate by over producing mucus to try to remoisturize. this could be what is making you and baby cough.
good luck!

Hi, in my experience this could be a couple of things. The first is what they call a "residual cough" after a cold. The cough can hang on as long as a few weeks after a cold ends, which sounds like what happened with you. I would put your ear to his back during a coughing episode (you don't need a stethescope) to make sure you don't hear squeaking or other noises to make sure he's not wheezing--sometimes you can't hear wheezing without doing this.

I say this because my daughter has asthma and this is how it started--just a regular cough that wouldn't stop. She coughed so much one night she threw up. One night I put my ear to her back and heard the squeaks and "fish noises" so I knew she was wheezing. It was frustrating because each time I took her to the doctor she wasn't coughing so they couldn't treat it. Finally I took her in (she was actually coughing at the time) and they treated her with a nebulizer, which really helped. They put her on inhalers and then we had a series of allergy tests. Luckily, she has no allergies and should outgrow the asthma, which is controlled my minimal inhalers.

I don't say this to alarm you and your son may have a benign cough that will go away on it's own. Just keep an eye on it and take him to the doctor if it doesn't go away. Good luck!

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