When children have cold, they often cough at night due to trickling down of mucus along the back of the throat. Your child's cough isn't serious if he is eating, drinking, breathing and feeding normally. If the cough gets worse at night and stays for longer periods of time, or it increases with any form of physical activity; then your child may be suffering from an acute attack of asthma. Some kids also face wheezing and difficulty in breathing during an asthma attack. Therefore symptoms like baby coughing at night should be addressed on emergent basis.

What Causes Baby Coughing at Night?

1.       Sleep Apnea

It is a sleep disorder that is marked by significant enlargement of tonsils and adenoids. The massively enlarged glands can block the upper airway at night; causing difficulty in breathing. When the throat muscles of your child gets relaxed at night; the overly sized glands restrict the pulmonary circulation into the lungs temporarily. The problem is most common among the children between the age of 3 and 6 years.

2.       Common Medical Conditions

Cough can also occur as a symptom of some allergies, asthma, cold or some other conditions. Particularly when the condition is painful and permanent. Learn more about these conditions to know if your baby is suffering from them. For example, if he/she has asthma, you’ll hear dry cough that worsens at night or in the early morning. Chest tightness and shortness of breath is also present.

You should immediately consult a doctor if your child faces serious difficulty in breathing and the problem lasts for more than a week, or it occurs suddenly, or if he is choking.

3.       Some Worrying Coughs

Sometimes, baby coughing at night gets more disturbing. Most common causes include:

  • Croup: Airway and voice box get virally infected.
  • Whooping cough: Bacterial infection in airways and windpipe. A vaccination is required whenever you face whooping cough.
  • Bronchiolitis: Viral infection inside the lungs.

4.       Acid Reflux

Symptoms of acid reflux include baby coughing at night, spitting and vomiting, continuous awful taste in mouth and heartburn.  The treatment is dependent on the age of child, his health and other problems. For acid reflux in infants, hold the baby in upright position when breastfeeding, feed in smaller portions, burping and changing sleep positions can help.

Here are some tips that might be useful to you if your baby is older: don't let them eat trigger foods like chocolate, peppermint, spicy and fried food and carbonated beverages. Make small portions of meal for them and try to let them eat at least 2 hours before sleeping.

5.       Teething and Cough

When a child is around 6 or 7 months, his teething starts, in which most babies produce increased salivary secretions. Most of the saliva escapes as drool but some may fall on the back of baby’s throat. So the child may face teething cough (as a reflex mechanism to clear his/her throat).

When new parents hear their baby coughing at night, its normal for them to get concerned but most cases of cough are harmless and natural. Parents should know that normal and teething cough is transient, and soft in intensity (without any signs of heaving and barking like sounds, which are symptoms of more serious complications).

When to Consult a Doctor

For kids younger than 3 months, medical consultation is always a preferred option. It is suggested to consult a doctor if your baby hasthe following symptoms:

  • Cough stays for 5 or more days
  • Cough getting worse
  • Fever in a baby of 3 months or younger; reaching up to or more than 38oC. Or if the baby is 6 months or older and has developed fever of up to 39o C or more.
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Coughing with brown, yellow or green mucus

How Is Baby Coughing Treated?

Please don't try to treat your baby with OTC medicines, as most of these pharmacological preparations are not recommended for children below 6 due to high risk of side-effects.

You can do the following to help your baby:

  • Allow the child to take ample rest.
  • Give baby extra feed; both breast milk and bottled milk. Your baby also need fluids to fight against infections.
  • Give your baby right dose of the medicine (ibuprofen or paracetamol for infants). These medications help in reducing the fever. Keep in mind that you can give your baby paracetamol after the age of 2 months (with body weight more than 4 kg) and if the baby was born after 37 weeks of gestation. You can also give him ibuprofen if baby weighs 5 kg and is at least 3 months old.
  • Steam breathing also helps in relieving cough for babies. The hot steamy air helps in softening the mucus and opening the blocked airways. Make sure, the child doesn't go under the shower or else he might get burnt.
  • If your baby's age is 1 or more, you can also treat the cough with warm lemon and honey drink. Honey can cause food poisoning for children younger than 1 year.

What Other Moms Say About Baby Night Cough and What They Did

“I was worried about my son’s health as he suffered several attacks of common cold during first year of his life (especially with a few attacks of bronchiolitis). My baby’s pediatrician advised anti-water vaporizers but later I found something even very effective, Sudaclear. It is vaporizer that can be plugged in and it’s awesome!”

“One thing that I always do when I hear my baby coughing at night is, go into kitchen with him and open tap for hot water. Then I take him on my shoulder and let him breathe the warmness in. This always helped me when I had cold, so I'm sure it works on him as well”.

“Few days ago, on my daughter's 1st birthday, we noticed that at night she coughs a lot. She was normal with no coughing in daytime. My baby’s coughing at night continued and at times I felt so exhausted for not being able to help her and just talked her to doctors who prescribed different cough medicines (without any relief). They have also given her an inhaler but I didn't think she had asthma. Then we finally took her to homeopathy and the medicines he gave showed great difference. We slept peacefully after 19 months; we couldn't believe our luck! We also got to know that the cough was related with baby acid reflux.”

“My child is aged 2 years is also congested. Sometimes I give her lemon and honey tea which deals with congestion. I also follow the running hot shower method and sit with her in bathroom to give her some relief. You can also use some baby Vicks products along with the warm bath. If none of these methods help, please consult a doctor to check if your baby has asthma because cough can also be relieved if breathing becomes smooth and problem free”.