Jar of Vicks VapoRub

Q. My three-year-old daughter gets a bad cough every time she gets a cold (which is often). The colds are likely due to the daycare environment she is in just this year.

The cough is sometimes so severe that she gags or even throws up. It is worse at night and interrupts her sleep. She does not cough much during the day, but during nap-time and at bed-time it is worse. It lasts about a week at a time, then subsides, and comes back a month or two later.

Her pediatrician has listened to her lungs and they are clear. There is no whooping or wheezing when she coughs. The natural approaches that the doctor has recommended (cool mist humidifier, warm cider, pillow propped up, steamy shower, honey) help a bit, but not enough to make a significant difference. We would be so grateful for suggestions.

A. You may want to try putting Vicks VapoRub on the soles of her feet at bedtime. Many parents report it is helpful. Another cough remedy that may help is thyme tea sweetened with honey.

We are sending you our Guide to Colds, Coughs & the Flu with more detailed suggestions about coping with such symptoms.

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  1. Q

    I used Vicks on my 3 yr old daughter’s feet last night and it worked. After a week of torture for her and the doctor not really giving me any remedies, I am thankful that something finally worked. She slept the whole night through without one cough or gag.

  2. Debra M.

    Do you have a recipe for the home remedy using Thyme for a cough? Thank you.
    Debra M.

  3. GA

    Worked like magic for us! Our 5 yr old had “the cough” that was going around her class. She was miserable–with a wet but non-productive cough every half-minute or so. It was torture. Finally, at midnight, after trying chamomile tea, steaming in the shower, etc. we tried rubbing the soles of her feet with the generic brand of Vicks (Rite Aid Chest Rub, or something). It worked like turning off a spigot. Awesome remedy! Dark chocolate also helps a lot but it was so late at night we didn’t want to stimulate her little system with theobromine, or whatever. Thank you PP!

  4. Angela

    I also suggest vapo rub on the soles of the feet and then cover with your socks. It always helps when nothing else will.

  5. JCM

    My granddaughter had one constant cold after another after the age of 9 months. She was treated with one antibiotic after another, had her adenoids removed, but still had the cough and runny nose.
    The doctor had said every time that her lungs sounded good – no rasping or wheezing. He blamed it on her being in Day care. He suggested all that was written above – raising the bed or pillow, cool mist humidifier etc. One month after her third birthday, she had an incident and was rushed to the hospital. The emergency room tech asked my daughter if her daughter was ever tested for Cystic Fibrosis. She hadn’t been nor did her pediatrician ever suggest it. They went and had her tested and sure enough, my granddaughter tested positive for CF!

  6. LK

    My husband tried Vicks on his feet for this, It did not work.

  7. fbl

    When my brothers and I were children we were always getting whatever came along. I was determined that it would be different for my son. It was!
    He started sucking on chewable vitamin C tablets at about 9 months old. I was careful to make sure he didn’t choke. I also rinsed his mouth with water so the acid wouldn’t affect his few teeth.
    As he got older I added a multiple vitamin. He didn’t get his first cold until he was about 13. He had told me he thought he was old enough to decide if he needed vitamins or not. I said OK, lets see how it goes. He got his first cold about two weeks later. He is now 32 and still takes his vitamins.
    Yes, he was also in daycare.

  8. HN

    Those natural approaches that the doctor recommended do nothing for prevention of the problem. Many alternative MDs are now finding that at least 75% of the population is deficient in vitamin D, so they’re recommending vitamin D supplements for prevention of many ailments.
    According to a report on vitamin D by Joseph Pizzorno, ND, “One recent study in Japan evaluated the impact of 1200 IU/d of vitamin D given to children during the winter flu season. Using the objective measure of pharyngeal swabs performed by physicians, researchers found a 42% reduction in influenza A and an even more remarkable 83% reduction in asthma attacks compared with controls.”
    I’m no doctor, but if it were my child, I’d sure ask my doctor to do a simple vitamin D blood test and discuss a dosage recommendation based on the results. According to Dr. Pizzorno, “It appears that 50 to 100 ng/L is optimal” as a test result.

  9. MTM

    My comment is exactly like the prior person. Every time I got any kind of cold, I wound up with a horrible cough. I was treated so many times for bronchitis but that was not the problem. I was an adult before I was properly diagnosed with asthma. I never wheezed so the family doctor just “assumed” it wasn’t asthma.
    I would highly suggest this child go to an allergy & asthma specialist. Some asthma is triggered by allergies or even exercise and is not the “typical” asthma. I know how miserable this child feels and hope she is properly diagnosed and doesn’t go through as many years of this as I did.

  10. pdk

    Try a mixture of 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup organic honey, and 1 tsp lemon juice. You might want to mix a little ginger in it too. Take 1 Tbs as needed for cough (better warm). Refrigerate what you don’t use for up to one week.
    Warm fluids should help any spasms.

  11. Sue

    My daughter is exactly like that!!!! Listen, they said the same thing about her chest being clear. The last doctor I took her to said, “if the cough gets worse at night, or after physical activity, IT IS ASTHMA”. She is doing better now. MAOM7, my daughter does not wheeze either, my husband was an asthmatic as a child and was looking for those classical signs that it presents and so overlooked that possibility.

  12. KS

    That was me at age three as well, except no daycare environment. Coughing all night, gagging, throwing up. It always started up after a respiratory infection – as if my body were attacking my own antibodies or something. I had allergies! Food, (which ended at puberty) mold, dander, dustmites, pollen. Weren’t many meds to help back then like there are today. My parents said that after I had my tonsils removed (age three, almost four) that I seemed to get sick less often.
    Definitely cover her pillow & mattress in allergy-proof covers, throw her stuffed animals in the freezer for a bit, keep pets out of the bedroom, etc. Follow general home allergy proofing tips & see if that helps. If not, perhaps have her tested for allergies.

  13. MAOM7

    I was just like this little girl when I was small. Every cold ended up with a horrible cough that was so bad I would throw up. I was 35 before they diagnosed me with asthma and gave me an inhaler. I never wheezed, and don’t have any other symptoms of asthma, EXCEPT when I have a cold, then I really get the coughing bad.
    I would suggest the doctor take a closer look. Not all asthma presents with wheezes (mine doesn’t) and not all asthma is triggered by allergies (mine isn’t).

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