Apr 24, 2017


Dr. Gellner: As a parent, there's one sound we all dread -- coughing. Why aren't there any good cough medicines that actually work on kids? I'll tell you why on today's Scope. I am Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering the Healthy Kids Zone with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: As a pediatrician, parents bring their children in for coughs all the time. They can be coughing for three weeks or just two days and parents all ask the same question. "How do I make it stop?" Coughing is noisy and uncomfortable, and kids get dirty looks in schools. Even worse, coughing keeps their kids and parents awake.

We've all been there and no one likes to cough, but we cough for a reason. It's to keep mucus out of our lungs where it wants to go to cause more problems. By stopping a cough, we also stop this protective system our body has. There are many medicines out there that promise they will stop or reduce coughing. Why? Because they don't really do that much. Some may make your child sleepy and sleeping children sometimes don't feel the cough tickle that makes them cough so much, or it decreases your child's mucus which helps with the cough. But study after study shows none of them really reduce the cough in any meaningful way.

What has been shown to work better than those expensive cough medicines? Honey. Yep. A spoonful of honey worked better than cough medicines in studies. Be careful though, no honey for anyone under one-year-old. Humidifiers help too. Be careful with things like menthol rubs. Many kids are harmed by these because the menthol makes their airways swell shut.

Parents can often handle the cough for a few days, but then they get really tired of hearing it. And yes, I'm one of those parents. Coughs last longer than you think though, only half of the coughs caused by the common cold get better by day 10 and many coughs last two, three, even four weeks until your child's immune system finally kicks the offending virus out.

Coughing has a purpose. It's there to prevent an ordinary mucus-y cold from turning into something much worse. There's no medicine that stops a cough and that's a good thing. If you think your child's cough is something more than just a virus, perhaps asthma or they swallowed something that got stuck in the wrong pipe, always be sure to schedule an appointment with your child's pediatrician so we can take a listen.

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