It is common for children to cough as a method of removing irritating substances present in the lungs. These substances enter the lungs via the air that the children breathe in and in some cases the cough will be dry, making a hacking sound. Dry hacking coughs are different from productive coughs (that yield mucus) as they needlessly irritate the lungs and throat. They can also cause burning and tickling sensations which lead to sleepless nights and difficult days.

Causes and Symptoms of Dry Hacking Cough in Child

Dry hacking cough in child is frequently due to infections within the upper respiratory tract (which includes the throat and nose), such as influenza or the cold. These coughs tend to worsen in warm rooms or right after the child goes to sleep, but in some cases dry hacking coughs indicate an infection in the lower respiratory tract like pneumonia or bronchitis. They may also be due to asthma as this first appears via a dry cough at night or exposure to irritants like cigarette smoke.

There are some other additional factors that can cause a dry hacking cough in child, including:

  • Breathing heated, dry air
  • Laryngitis
  • Postnasal drip
  • Whooping cough which includes a dry hacking cough for several months
  • Interstitial lung disease (although this is less common in children and infants)
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)

In the following video, doctors explain how to identify different types of coughs, including the dry hacking cough in child:

How to Deal with Dry Hacking Cough in Child

There are many ways to relieve a dry hacking cough in child and some are home remedies while others require your physician's assistance.

Medical Treatments for Dry Hacking Cough in Child



Cough suppressant

Sometimes your pediatrician will suggest a cough suppressant which works to stop the cough reflex. This is especially common in cases of dry coughs that affect sleep and to reduce the symptoms. It is not usually recommended for children under 4 years old.

Nebulizer breathing treatments

In cases your child’s cough is due to asthma, the doctor may recommend nebulizer breathing treatments. These nebulizers convert medicine from liquid to mist, increasing the ease with which it is inhaled in the lungs. These are most effective for giving infants or small children asthma medication.

Avoiding allergens

If the dry cough is due to allergies, your child’s doctor may recommend getting rid of the allergen source. This might be combined with a prescription for antihistamines designed to treat the symptoms of the allergy.

Cough drops

You should never give cough drops to children under three as they are a choking hazard. In older children they can treat the symptoms of dry cough. If you think that they are a good option for your child, always talk to your pediatrician before giving him any to ensure that they are safe.

Home Remedies for Dry Hacking Cough in Child

  1. 1. Let your child drink more water

Make sure that your child is drinking enough water. This helps stop the thickening of the mucus. Opting for soups or other hot liquids can also ease the irritation and soreness in your child’s chest in addition to loosening up the mucus.

  1. 2. Help them breathe in humidified air

Humidified air contains moisture and this water vapor reduces your child’s coughing and eases his symptoms. You can use several methods to do so, including:

  • Hang up a damp towel in your kid’s bedroom.
  • Close the bathroom door and run a warm bath or shower. After the room fills up with steam, sit with your child in the bathroom for ten minutes. Keep him relaxed and entertained by reading or singing to him.
  • Get a cool-mist humidifier to place in your kid’s room.
  1. 3. Cool the air for children

Sometimes having your child breathe in cool air will help with a dry cough as well. It reduces swelling within the respiratory tract, thereby suppressing the coughing. There are several methods of doing this including:

  • Letting your child inhale vapor coming from an open freezer or refrigerator
  • Go for a drive in the car with the windows open
  • Open the window in your child’s room (and other areas of the house) so he can breathe in the cool, humid air from outside
  1. 4. Try cool drinks

Some kids find cool drinks like cold juice or water to be helpful for treating dry cough and it can also be soothing. Just be sure to avoid sodas or citrus juices as those may further irritate your child’s sore throat.

  1. 5. Steam and humidity

Similar to the humidified air mentioned above, you can also use steam to relieve some of the symptoms of a dry cough in your child. Follow the same procedure as mentioned above in which you turn on the hot water in the bathtub or shower and let it fill the room with steam. Then sit inside for at least twenty minutes to get the best results.

When to See a Doctor

Most of the time a cold will be due to a virus and as such, using antibiotic treatments won’t necessarily help treat the dry hacking cough which is caused by these viruses or colds. Instead, you should try to treat the symptoms of the dry cough for however long the virus lasts, which should be about two weeks. Be sure to take your child to the doctor if the dry cough is joined by a fever that reaches 102 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Coughing combined with a high fever can indicate a serious infection like pneumonia which would require immediate medical care.

The video below tells you more about the symptoms, causes and some medications for dry hacking cough in child: