How to Help a Child With a Bad Cough and Phlegm

Your child may have a productive cough, which is one that brings up phlegm. Your child's cough may be particularly acute after a bacterial respiratory infection, a bout with the flu or another virus. Other causes of a particularly severe cough include sinus infections that drain into the throat, allergies and asthma. If a cough occurs with a cold or the flu and lingers for a week or so without other symptoms, treat your child's discomfort as needed. If his cough gets worse, is accompanied by a fever or other symptoms, or lasts for more than two weeks, make an appointment with your child's doctor.

Encourage your child to drink plenty of fluids. These will soothe his throat and encourage drainage. Warm liquids such as chicken broth and tea with honey and lemon may be especially comforting.

Bring your child into the bathroom and run the hot shower. Have her breathe in the steamy air to moisten her nasal passages and throat and to help break up some of her chest congestion.

Run a cool-mist humidifier in your child's bedroom to keep the air moist. This may allow her to sleep more easily.

Ask his doctor whether an expectorant cough medicine, such as one containing guaifenesin, is appropriate for your child. Don't give any cough or cold medicine to your child without your doctor's approval, especially if your child is under 6 years old.

Contact your child's doctor or seek emergency care immediately if she has trouble breathing, is making wheezing sounds or coughs up blood.


Avoid exposing your child to secondhand smoke. This is unhealthy at any time, but is particularly bothersome when the child has a cough, as it may exacerbate his symptoms.

Do not give a child under 4 years old cough drops, as they are a choking hazard.