Why is your child coughing at evening? Medical doctors clarify what might be occurring

Although you never want to see your child sick, there’s something about night sickness that takes on a whole different intensity. Maybe it’s the lack of sleep, the stress of looking after your child all day, or a little bit of both, but cold symptoms only seem to get worse at night. If your child is constantly clearing their throat during the day, it seems somehow more manageable than your baby coughing at night, right? If your baby coughs into the early hours, here’s how to deal with it, when to worry, and when to see the pediatrician.

What does a baby coughing at night mean?

You finally put your baby to bed, only to be woken up by a persistent cough. It’s certainly frustrating, but there’s a reason your child might cough more when the sun goes down. “Parents often notice that a baby’s cough gets worse at night when they have a cold,” says Dr. Natalie Thoni, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, told Romper. “When a baby sleeps on its back, the sinuses empty and cause irritation in the upper airway, leading to coughing.” Another cause of a nighttime cough in young children, according to Thoni, is Krupp, although the telltale croup cough is a very specific sound Has. A common respiratory disease of the trachea, larynx, and bronchi, croup can lead to stridor (a loud or high-pitched sound of breathing), or a barking cough that makes your child sound like a seal, according to a PubMed study. And, you guessed it, croup is worse at night.

What does it mean if baby only coughs at night?

There can be a number of reasons why your baby only coughs at night. But if you’ve noticed this trend, it’s worth speaking to your child’s pediatrician to uncover the cause of the cough — and allay your concerns. “If the cough only occurs at night, reflux may be a more likely cause,” explains Dr. Denise Scott, MD, a board-certified pediatrician. But if your child is also sniffling or sneezing, there’s a good chance they have a cold or some other illness. “If an infant hasn’t been vaccinated, whooping cough or whooping cough has to be as worrisome as RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and Covid.” Even a reaction to an animal in the home or secondhand smoke could be the culprit, says Scott.

Whether it’s an illness or exposure to another irritant, the reason your child is coughing at night is likely due to your baby’s position. “When an infant lies down, any nasal drainage runs down the throat and can trigger a cough,” she says.

How can you help your baby sleep at night when they cough?

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As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But how do you know how to cure a cough if you don’t understand what causes it? “If this is a new symptom and is occurring in conjunction with other symptoms such as nasal congestion, fever, runny nose/mucus production, doing whatever is necessary to clear the nostrils before the baby lies down can help. These include the use of nasal saline and suction,” explains Dr. Krupa Bhojani Playforth, a board certified pediatrician. “If the cause is reflux, avoiding overfeeding and holding the baby upright for 20 to 30 minutes after feeding can help.”

If you’re looking for home remedies that might help suppress the cough, a humidifier can help, as can keeping your child hydrated. For newborns, that means offering plenty of breast milk or formula. “If your child is older than 1 year, you can also try giving a teaspoon of honey before bed to relieve the nighttime cough,” advises Thoni. But stay away from the over-the-counter medications, especially if you’re not sure why your child is coughing. “Unfortunately, there is no cough suppressant for infants and children, and no over-the-counter cough suppressant should be used on children without first talking to your doctor.”

If congestion is keeping your child awake, you can try to help them unblock their small airways safely. “Use saline drops and suction the nose well before bed, because allowing an infant to breathe through the nose helps reduce coughing,” advises Scott. “Also, for both drainage symptoms and reflux, it can be helpful to put something under the head of the mattress, such as a piece of cotton wool. B. a folded towel or blanket to raise the head of the pearl slightly (about 30 degrees).

When should you go to the doctor?

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There comes a point when a cough could require immediate medical attention. “If the cough leads to breathing difficulties, you should have your baby examined by a doctor,” advises Thoni. “A baby who is having trouble breathing is often breathing faster than normal and may be pulling in his ribs or using his neck muscles to help him breathe.” If your normally rosy cherub is showing bruising around his lips or face, you should take to the emergency room immediately.

Other symptoms that may warrant a visit to the pediatrician include a refusal to eat or extreme irritability, according to Scott. “Anything that makes you uncomfortable or worried as a parent is a reason to have your baby checked out by a doctor,” she says.

“A lot of parents worry about bothering the pediatrician, but many of us understand how worrying it can be when your child is coughing,” adds Playforth. “Cough is uncomfortable and can affect sleep, feeding and breathing, but we’d much rather discuss it with a concerned parent than not. Trust your gut feeling!”

Referenced study:

Sizar O, Carr B (2021) Croup PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28613724/


dr Natalie Thoni, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children

dr Denise Scott, MD, a board-certified pediatrician

dr Krupa Bhojani Playforth, MD, a board-certified pediatrician

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