Kids + Coughing At Night

Have you noticed your infant or toddler is completely fine during the day, but during the night they are coughing, and sometimes it is so bad that their cough is waking them up.  You may think they are starting to get a cold for them to just be fine during the day, but the minute they lay flat, they are coughing.  Night time coughs can be caused by multiple different things.  A little cough is not always the cause for you to run to the doctor.  If your baby’s cough is not accompanied by any symptoms can be difficult to diagnose what is causing your baby’s cough. 


What are possible causes for night time coughing?


Post Nasal Drip

One of the things that can cause a night time cough is post nasal drip.  Post nasal drip doesn’t always have a runny nose as a symptom.  This can be because the mucus build up is dripping straight down the throat as opposed to being congested in the nose.  This can be caused by an infection, or even allergies.  You can sometimes notice if it is allergy related, if the cough comes and goes only during certain times of the year, when certain things are blooming or seasons are changing.  Post nasal drip can cause the excess mucus to run down the throat triggering a cough when your baby is lying flat.  To help alleviate this you can raise your baby’s mattress or bed, to help elevate their head a little bit to help with drainage.  



Another cause for night time is Croup.  Croup can affect babies between the ages of six months to three years.  Croup is also known as the barky cough, because of the sound they cough sounds like.  It is caused from the windpipe, and vocal cords becoming inflamed.  The cough can worsen at night.  Other symptoms that can be associated with Croup are trouble breathing, noisy breathing, hoarseness, and fever.  Croup is more common in boys then in girls though it can affect either.  You will want to see your doctor for this condition so they can prescribe you nebulized epinephrine to help symptoms.  


Whooping Cough

Whooping cough can also worsen at night.  Though most everyone gets vaccinated for Whooping cough, you can still get it.  If you have been vaccinated and you catch Whooping cough your symptoms are so minor that you don’t even realize you have it.  Whooping cough is a bacterial infection that can lead to coughing so severely your baby may vomit.  Your doctor can give you antibiotics though, and you will want to make sure your baby is staying hydrated especially if they are vomiting because they are coughing so much.  



Over six million children are diagnosed with asthma.  One of the first symptoms of asthma in infants and toddlers is a night time cough.  It is triggered at night because the excess mucus stays in place in the lungs.  Asthma can also be accompanied with symptoms such as shortness of breath tightness around the chest, and shallow rapid breath.  As well as getting worse at night it can also be exasperated by crying, or being overly excited. 

It is helpful to avoid triggers of asthma.  Triggers can include, allergies, sickness, physical activity, or coldness in the weather.  If your child gets diagnosed with asthma they will usually get a prescription to help stop asthma attacks, or medicine to help if an attack does happen.  Your doctor will also go through a written action plan that you will want to make sure all caregivers know about.  



Reflux can also be a culprit of night time coughs.  Reflux can happen to any child at any age, though usually they will grow out of it by two or three.  Reflux can be caused by eating or drinking too much at one time, eating or drinking too close to bedtime, or immature digestive system.  Reflux is when the contents of the stomach come up causing gagging, which can then lead to coughing. 

Try propping up your child’s bed to help keep food down.  Skip eating three big meals and go for smaller meals more often throughout the day.  Avoid too much spicy and citrusy foods for both of those can cause reflux.  After your child eats, try keeping them upright after eating for at least thirty minutes. 


Treatment Options

There are some things at home you can do to help soothe your baby’s cough. 

  • Try honey, in a tablespoon if they are over one  year old, and they like it that way.  You can also add a tablespoon of honey to a warm water to give them to drink as well. 
  • Taking a warm shower, or bath can also help relieve a cough. 
  • Fluids are also important and can help with a cough. 
  • Putting baby vapor rub on your child’s feet can also help as well as running a humidifier by them at night. 
  • Elevating their head while they sleep whether that’s with a pillow, or elevating the mattress or bed to help keep them elevated.  

You will want to reach out to your doctor if the cough is accompanied by either fever, coughing up blood, difficulty swallowing, or has lasted longer than 2-3 weeks.  Night time coughs can be hard to figure out what is the cause behind them.  Since your little one cannot tell you what they are feeling, and sometimes other symptoms just aren’t present. 

If the coughing starts affecting your child’s sleep you will want to reach out to your doctor.  Finding out the cause behind will get you to be able to quickly start treating the underlying cause so hopefully peaceful sleeps without a cough can happen for you and your baby.  



Post nasal drip doesn’t always have a runny nose as a symptom.  This can be because the mucus build up is dripping straight down the throat as opposed to being congested in the nose. 

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