Adults who suffer from a cough can choose from many over-the-counter medications to ease symptoms. But when an infant gets a cough, different rules apply. Since over-the-counter cough medications are not recommended in young children, it’s challenging to find a quick and effective remedy to manage symptoms. Fortunately, there are some home remedies, such as fluids and humidifiers, that may offer symptom relief. While a cough in a 7-month old, or any infant, is typically not serious and will go away in a few weeks, there are some symptoms that warrant evaluation by a pediatrician.
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Fluids and Rest
Giving your 7-month-old plenty of fluids helps to prevent dehydration, thin mucus secretions and prevents the mouth and throat from getting too dry. Staying well hydrated also helps your baby cough up the phlegm more easily. Breast milk, formula, plain water, juice and warm soup are all good choices. Your baby may also be tired and need more rest, and this is the perfect time to allow longer naps and quiet-time activities.
Moist air from steam or a humidifier will help reduce irritation and dryness of the throat, lungs and mucus membranes and allow your child to sleep easier. Compared to the vaporizers or warm mist humidifiers, cool mist humidifiers are more safe to have around a 7-month-old. For some coughs, a shorter exposure to hot, humid air can help -- such as taking your infant into a steamy bathroom for 20 minutes.
Treatments to Avoid
Due to the risk of serious side effects, over-the-counter cough treatments are not recommended in infancy, according to guidelines published in the April 2008 issue of “Thorax.” While a spoonful of honey may soothe a sore throat and ease a cough, honey should never be given to a child under the age of 1, because of a risk of botulism infection. Other natural therapies, such as zinc and vitamin C have been shown to ease cold symptoms, according to a report in the December 2013 issue of “American Family Physician”, but these supplements should not be used in a 7-month-old unless the pediatrician approves the dose.
One of most challenging aspects of an infant cough is the duration -- most coughs resolve in 14 days, but a minority last for 3 to 4 weeks, according to the guidelines published in “Thorax.” While most infant coughs are caused by a virus -- thus not treated by antibiotics -- some are caused by allergies or an irritant, such as second-hand smoke. Removal of the offending irritant or allergen, if possible, is an effective treatment.
If your infant has fever, difficulty breathing, or a minor cough that has persisted for at least 2 weeks, it’s time for the pediatrician to investigate other causes. If the coughing starting right after a choking episode, or after your baby inhaled a foreign body, seek immediate medical attention.