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Coughing is often caused by thick, sticky mucus getting on the vocal cords. This irritates the vocal cords and triggers a coughing reflex -- a natural way to keep foreign material out of the lungs.


  • Suppressing the cough reflex with a cough syrup that contains codeine or dextromethorphan may result in pneumonia.
  • Helping the cough become more effective by making mucus thin and less sticky is a better practice. There are cough syrups that are supposed to do this, but they don't work very well. The best remedy for coughing (and certainly the safest and cheapest) is a cool mist vaporizer. By putting water into the air, the vaporizer allows the child's mucus to become less sticky, the coughing to be more effective, and the lungs to be protected.


  • Do get a cool mist vaporizer.
  • Don't get a hot mist vaporizer or "steamer." They are dangerous and can cause serious burns.
  • Don't put anything but cool water in your cool mist vaporizer. Commercial compounds and oils do no good at all and may ruin your vaporizer.
  • Do get a large vaporizer, preferably one with a 1 1/2- to 2-gallon capacity.
  • Don't confuse a vaporizer with a humidifier. A good vaporizer puts out an easily visible column of mist, makes the whole room feel moist, and is designed for intermittent use (as when your child has a cold). A humidifier puts out much less vapor, is designed for constant use in a dry climate and adds very little water to the air.
  • Don't use the vaporizer all the time. Mold will grow on your wallpaper and window sills, and your furniture will be damaged. (This is particularly important for children with allergies to molds.)
  • When you do use the vaporizer, close the windows and doors and turn the equipment on as high as it will go.
  • Clean the vaporizer thoroughly after each use and dry it inside and out before putting it away. Never store the vaporizer with water in it.
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