What is a cough?

A cough is a natural – and important – spontaneous reflex that helps protect the lungs airways in the throat and chest against irritants.2 Your child coughs when nerves in areas such as the pharynx (throat), larynx (voicebox), trachea (windpipe, the main airway into the lung) or large bronchi (breathing or airways in the lungs) are irritated by germs, mucus or dust.2,3

Coughs are common when children get a viral infection that causes a cold.1 This triggers the release of mucus, which drips down the back of your child’s throat, causing them to cough.1

But it may be the sign of something more serious, or may be caused by other medical conditions, so it’s important to get it checked out by your doctor if you’re worried, their cough keeps them awake a lot at night, they’re having trouble breathing, they’re not drinking as much as normal or they still have a cough after three weeks.1

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is also more common in children than adults.4 Most sore throats are caused by a virus and clear up within a week.4 You might be able to see some redness at the back of your child’s throat or they might say their throat is dry/scratchy or they find it sore, especially when they swallow.4

The parts of the throat that are usually affected are the pharynx (causing pharyngitis), the tonsils (causing tonsillitis), or the larynx (the voice box and results in laryngitis).5,6

Sore throats can also be caused by a bacterial infection, but your child will usually be more poorly, take longer to get better and might need antibiotics.4 Other, non-infectious causes of sore throat include pollution, air conditioning, shouting and allergies.7 If your child has a high temperature, they are hot and shivery, their sore throat is severe or lasts longer than two weeks or they get them regularly, then see your doctor for advice.4

Relieving coughs and sore throats?

  • For coughs in children over one year of age, a warm honey and lemon drink can help: squeeze half a lemon into a cup of boiled and cooled water, add one or two teaspoons of honey and leave to cool down (don’t give hot drinks to children).1
  • For sore throats, avoid giving your child hot foods or drinks, instead give cool, soft foods and drinks.4 Older children can suck on ice lollies, ice cubes or hard sweets, but avoid these in young children because of the risk of choking.4
  • You can also ease sore throat pain in children over 3 months with ibuprofen,4 the medicine in Nurofen for Children.
  • Don’t give cough and cold medicines to children under 6 years of age,  unless under the advice of a doctor or pharmacist.1
  • For children over 6 years, over-the-counter cough medicines and throat lozenges are available.1


For more information, ask your pharmacist or doctor.