With infant cold medicine being pulled from the shelves, and the safety (and usefulness) of regular cough medicine in question, it's good to have a few cough-suppressant hacks up one's sleeve. Here are Christiane's:
Our oldest son (of three children) has terrible allergy-induced asthma. When he was younger, this presented as a chronic evening cough which would start as an "ahem" and would, by midnight, turn into a seal's bark with persistent gasping and wheezing. I know other parents might recognize this description–it is incredibly terrifying to hear your child gasp for air.
We tried several over-the-counter medicines that boasted of "surpressing" or "loosening" the coughs. None worked. Here's what has helped over the years:
Deep-breathing techniques. On evenings when we hear the cough begin (usually in fall and spring), we put on a meditation CD in the player next to his bed, and we help him take long, slow meditative breaths. The coughing is spasmodic. If we can stop it before it gets too bad, he will calm down enough to fall asleep.
A humidifier. Back when I was broke, I substituted a crock pot full of water turned on "auto" all night long in his room because I could not afford to buy the real thing. [This is your best bet for a coughing infant. — Ed.]
A warm washcloth in a Ziploc baggie. Safer and less bulky than a hot-water bottle, this helped on nights when his ear ached in conjunction with the cough, and on other nights was simply a warm distraction from the cough.
Valerian. We use a kid-friendly dose in a little water with a teaspoon of honey to chase it down with. The valerian calms the nerves and relaxes the throat muscles; the honey soothes a sore throat.
My favorite natural cough suppressant is the hot salt water gargle. In fact, I just got a note from a PR firm spreading the word about a new packaged salt water gargle — Simply Gargle. The single-serve ampules of herb-infused salt water can be thrown into a bag and used anywhere. If you can get your kid to palate the stuff, it could be a viable alternative.
As for relieving congestion, we still swear by the Vicks VapoRub -down on the chest. That, combined with a humidifier, does wonders for a cough. Parenthackers have also said good things about the plug-in vaporizers. Any other suggestions?