Cough and Cold is a very common problem for children. The most common cause of cough is a respiratory tract infection, such as a cold. Young children usually have 6 to 12 respiratory tract infections per year, usually caused by viruses.


When a child gets a cold, it starts with a general feeling of not being well, often followed by a sore throat, runny nose and cough. At the beginning, the sore throat is due to a build-up of mucus. Later, a postnasal drip may develop which is when the mucus runs down the back of the nose to the throat. Other symptoms may include watery eyes, sneezing, feeling lethargic and fever.

Could it be asthma?

A child who has a persistent cough at night may have asthma. Usually, children with asthma will have other symptoms as well, such as wheeze and difficulty breathing. Many children with asthma also suffer from allergies and eczema. If you are concerned that your child may have asthma, see your GP for an examination and more information.

What can I do?

Antibiotics don’t help with coughs caused by viruses. Sometimes, children may cough for many weeks after a viral infection – this is called a post-viral cough and, again, antibiotics are usually no help.Occasionally a cough may be caused by a bacterial infection in the throat or chest. In these cases, antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to treat a bacterial infection.

  • It is essential that you do not expose your child to smoke.
  • Some cough medicines work by thinning the mucus produced in the airway. Others reduce your natural cough reflex or may contain similar ingredients to anti-histamines. It is important to remember that cough & cold medicines should not be used in children younger than six years old, and only used in children over six on the advice of a health professional.
  • There is some evidence that honey may reduce the severity and duration of a cough and cold. As a short-term solution, one to two teaspoons of honey taken 30 minutes before bedtime may be helpful for children older than 12 months. Honey should be avoided in children less than 12 months old, because there may be a risk of a rare condition called botulism, which causes muscle weakness.


1) The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne. (2018). Kids Health Information.
2) WebMD. (2020). Children and Colds.