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Alternative Medicines For Children's Cough & Colds

Asthma, Infant and Children, Immune | August 5, 2016 | Author: Naturopath

Children, Alternative Therapies, Immune

Alternative Medicines For Children's Cough & Colds

A child’s little body can make a big sound when dealing with a wracking cough. Coughs are a very common occurrence in children, with coughs sometimes lasting from 2 to 6 weeks following a respiratory infection. However we need to remember that coughing is the body’s natural reaction to ridding the airways of foreign or irritating substances. This article aims to outline some of the common causes of coughs in children and offer natural alternatives to help relieve them.

Causes Of Coughs In Children

Cold & flu

The common cough is perhaps more common than the common cold and usually is a symptom accompanying influenza or a cold. Children contract a higher amount of these kinds of infections possibly due to their immature immune system and from being in close contact with others at school and day care. It is not unusual for children to contract 6-12 colds a year with a persistent cough occurring as one cold can merge into another. By far the most common cause of coughing is from a viral infection, usually happening as part of a cold.

The cough is usually worse at night as mucous drips from the nose into the windpipe when lying down. Interestingly coughing is less common in the common cold & more common with the flu.

Lower Respiratory Tract InfectionsLower Respiratory Tract Infections

Lower respiratory tract infections affect the windpipes, airways & lungs.

Respiratory tract infections are caused by invading pathogens and are usually viral in nature. The most common infections from viral causes include bronchiolitis, croup & pneumonia.

Sometimes children can have an upper & lower respiratory tract infection simultaneously.

Bronchiolitis is common in children under 12 months old as a cough is usually accompanied by wheezing.


Croup is a viral infection which causes swelling of the windpipe and voice box, making it harder to breathe. The cough is a typical barking sound made worse at night from the cooler temperature. Mild croup can be managed at home but croup with stridor or difficulty breathing requires medical attention.

Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Whooping cough is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis and causes severe coughing that occurs in bouts with a characteristic “whoop” sound on inhalation. It is potentially a serious condition in children that requires medical attention.


EnvironmentalCoughs can be caused from irritants in our environment such as smoke, pollution & airborne allergens. Children most affected are those with asthma & allergies.  


Asthma is a common childhood illness that causes wheeze, cough & difficulties breathing. A cough associated with asthma is often worse at night & after exercise.

It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect your child has asthma.

Natural Solutions

Herbal cough mixtures are a safe & effective way to treat coughs in children. The following are some of the most commonly used:

Ivy Leaf (Hedera Helix) This herb is mainly used for its expectorant action in the body and has been traditionally used to treat bronchial conditions with congestion. It helps to thin & loosen the mucous so it is easy to cough up. A review of three published trials showed ground ivy as an effective treatment for improving respiratory tract function in children.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) 

Licorice has many beneficial properties for the respiratory system which include anti-inflammatory, expectorant (relaxing), anticatarrhal, antispasmodic to the muscles and soothing to the mucous membranes. It is indicated for respiratory conditions such as croup, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis and a dry cough.

Pelargonium (Pelar​gonium sidoides) 

This herb has been clinically proven to reduce the recovery time & symptoms of acute bronchitis & sinusitis. In the same study 45% of patients taking pelargonium experienced recovery after 7 days compared to 6.4% for the placebo group. It is a good choice for children who have an upper or lower respiratory tract infection or both.

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra) 

Traditionally is used for treating colds and clinical trials have found that elderberry syrup reduced both duration and severity of symptoms, including mucus, fever and inflammation. It may be useful for lung congestion, dry coughs, sinusitis and chronic nasal catarrh with deafness.

Natural SolutionsManuka Honey

Manuka honey is a mono-floral honey made in New Zealand from bees that have pollinated the manuka tree. This honey is high in natural antibacterial properties and the higher the UMF or MGO rating the higher these antibiotic properties are.

The honey helps to soothe an irritated dry throat whilst also helping to fight the underlying infection, but please note, honey is not recommended for children under the age of 1 year.
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Zinc & Vitamin C 

These nutrients are important for proper immune system function and deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of infections. Vitamin C is also anti-allergic and studies have shown that taking this as a supplement reduces the symptoms for both asthma, allergic rhinitis & the common cold.

Zinc lozenges have also shown to not only reduce the severity of the common cold but also helps to relieve the symptoms.

The above recommendations should not to be used in children under the age of two unless approved from a health professional.

Dietary & Lifestyle Suggestions

• Dairy. Avoid eating too much dairy products as they have been found to increase the production of mucous.

• Rest. It is important to keep your child well rested while unwell and to prevent infection from spreading to others. Keep indoors if environmental pollution is contributing to their symptoms.

• Vegetable and chicken broths, stews and soups are high in nutrients to help speed up the recovery time. Use small amounts of freshly grated ginger, turmeric, garlic and lemon.

• Omega 3. Increase consumption of omega-3 fatty acids which are present in cold-water fish such as salmon, walnuts, linseeds and chia seeds.

• Eat foods that are rich in vitamins A, C and E, including almonds, capsicum, sweet potato, baby spinach, kale, berries & kiwi fruit.

• Water. Make sure your child is well hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Balch, J. & Balch, P. (2000). Prescription for Nutritional Healing (3rd ed.), Penguin Publishing, United States of America Hofmann D, Hecker M, Volp A. Efficacy of dry extract of ivy leaves in children with bronchial asthma - a review of randomized controlled trials. Phytomed 2003; 10: 213-220 Lizogub VG, Riley DS, Heger M. Efficacy of pelargonium sidoides preparation in patients with the common cold: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial

Sarris, J. & Wardle, J. (2010). Clinical Naturopathy, Churchill Livingstone, Australia Thomsen, M. (2005).
Phytotherapy Desk Reference (3rd ed.), Michael Thomsen, Australia

Fisher; Carole , (2009) Materia Medica of Western Herbs, Nelson New Zealand, pg 78

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