How to Calm Your Nighttime Cough

How to Calm Your Nighttime Cough

7 days

18 days    

30 days

You probably think a cough should clear up in a little over a week. But an ordinary cough — one that isn’t caused by a more serious illness — will stick around for about 18 days.




This means antibiotics won’t help you get rid of the cough — they only treat bacteria. Other remedies can help you feel better while you wait for it to run its course. But no “cures” can make the cough go away.

Cough drop

Hard candy


Drugstore shelves are filled with countless flavors and brands of cough drops and lozenges. They all soothe a cough. Even hard candy can stop that tickle in the back of your throat.

Cough medicine



Either one can help calm your nighttime cough and make it easier for you get a peaceful night’s sleep. Adults may try taking 2 teaspoons of honey at bedtime. Don’t give honey to babies younger than 1.



These products have more than one kind of medicine in them. This raises the chances of taking too much or having side effects. Kids under 4 shouldn’t take any cold medicine. Ask your doctor first if your child is 4 to 6 years old.

You make a high-pitched sound when you breathe in.

You make a wheezing sound when you breathe out.


Noisy breathing can be a symptom of bronchitis, asthma, or another problem that a doctor should check. Call him if you have trouble breathing or cough up blood. If your baby has a cough that worries you, call her doctor.


Vapor rub


Known for its powerful smell, vapor rub can ease a nighttime cough. Spread it on your chest and neck at bedtime. Don’t use it on a child under 2. Although many people swear by echinacea for colds and cough, studies are mixed on whether it works.

10 days

3 weeks

8 weeks

In adults, a cough that lasts more than 8 weeks is reason to see the doctor. Most go away on their own before that. But if you have other symptoms like weight loss, shortness of breath, coughing up blood — or if you smoke — call the doctor sooner.



This gunk isn’t pretty, but it’s part of the normal course of a cold. This mucus is thicker and harder for your sinuses to drain, so you may feel pressure in your face. That still doesn’t mean you have a sinus infection or need antibiotics. If it lasts for more than 10 days, call your doctor.



Heartburn can cause a long-lasting cough in both adults and kids. The acid that comes with it irritates nerves and triggers your cough reflex. Stay away from alcohol and food 2-3 hours before bed. Sleep with your head raised a few inches.

On your back

On your side

Propped up

Go ahead and hog that extra pillow or two. Sleeping with your head raised keeps mucus from pooling in the back of your throat. It also keeps acid from traveling up from your stomach and then down into your lungs.



Dry air can irritate your throat. A humidifier adds moisture to the air and wets your airways, making it easier to breathe. But don’t crank it up to full blast. You want to keep the humidity between 40% and 50%. Too much water in the air has the opposite effect. Clean your unit regularly so you don’t inhale germs. Use distilled water if you can It puts less gunk into the air than tap water.




Some reduce the amount of mucus you make and widen your airways. That cuts congestion and makes it easier to breathe. That’s why you often find antihistamines in cough and cold medicines. Products made for nighttime use make you drowsy, so they work best. Just note that this drug won’t help a cough caused by smoking, emphysema, pneumonia, asthma, or chronic bronchitis.

Drink a glass of milk

Sip green tea

People have long blamed milk for creating more mucus. But no science proves that. Still, many say that the drink’s thick texture coats your throat and makes the gunk thicker and harder to swallow, which can trigger a cough. Hot, green tea is the better choice. It has soothed sore throats for centuries. Plus, research shows that it’s packed with antioxidants and can boost your immune system.



There’s no harm in swallowing mucus. You do it without thinking about it all the time. It’s just a protein that your stomach will digest. And it won’t come back up again. You can spit it out if you want, but that’s certainly not the polite thing to do in public.

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Reviewed by William

Blahd, MD on June 06, 2017

Medically Reviewed on June 06, 2017

Reviewed by William

Blahd, MD on
June 06, 2017

Arthur Tilley

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med, 2007.
Chest, October 2000.
Nemours Foundation.
Chest, August 2003.
University of Michigan University Health Service.
Children’s Hospital Colorado.
Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
Canadian Lung Association.
Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
University of Arizona Campus Health Service.
Harvard Health Publications: “That Nagging Cough,” “No Coughing Matter.”
Mayo Clinic: “Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt.”
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: “Portable Humidifiers Need Regular Cleaning During Winter Months.”
EPA: “Use and Care of Home Humidifiers.”
American Academy of Family Physicians: “Cough Medicine: Understanding Your OTC Options.”
ABC Health and Wellbeing: “Fact Buster: Does Milk Make Mucus Worse?”
Australian Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Information: “Milk, Mucus, and Cough.”
Organic Facts: “Health Benefits of Green Tea.”
The Preventive Medicine Center: “A Guide to the Health Benefits of Green Tea.”
Western Washington University: “Is It Better to Swallow Phlegm or Spit It Out?”

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How to Calm Your Nighttime Cough

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