ask the doctor: cough, cold & immune support

Hi Doctor Corinne,

My Two year old developed a cold after her Birthday party on August 28th and has had a persistent cough ever since. She had a check up last Friday but it was never checked as we figured it was over. Well, the next day it started again.  This morning she has been coughing up the phlegm but I can’t convince her to spit it out when she does. Earlier in the month we ran the Vicks vaporizer in her room, it helped with over night coughs but it was still bad throughout the day. Also our six month old had the same cold and cough but didn’t develop the cough again. What can we do for our toddler now? And for the baby if she gets it again?



Hi Tanja!

I hope you have managed to keep the remaining members of your household healthy with your sick daughters! This was a great question  many parents struggle with knowing when their children’s colds are okay and when it’s becoming more worrisome. This appears to be one of those colds that may be on the cusp of getting more worrisome, so I’m glad you asked.

Without doing a physical exam on your daughter, I only have a small portion of the picture. I would need much more information, for example such as the frequency, intensity, and duration of the coughing episodes? If there is any shortness of breath, or gasping for air between coughing fits? Any night sweats? Any fever? The color, consistency, and quantity of the sputum? Any blood?

However, if your daughter’s cough has been ongoing at the same intensity or progressively worse over the last month, I recommend you take her to see her M.D. As a Naturopathic Doctor, typically I try to help the body heal with natural remedies, but there is absolutely an appropriate place and time for antibiotics. Sometimes if the benefits outweigh the risks, they are called for. And the body can absolutely be supported throughout the course of the medication, minimizing their harmful effects.

If, upon a visit with her M.D. it is determined that it is a harmless lingering cough and all serious conditions been ruled out, there are things you can do at home to help her little body fight the cough. Again, without having physically visited with your daughter, I am not permitted to suggest specific prescriptions. However, some good quality general immune support is going to help her a great deal:

– Ensure adequate and good quality sleep

– Ensure adequate and good quality nutrition, more veggies fewer fruits

– Ensure adequate and good quality fluids no sugary juices or drinks

– Minimize / eliminate sugar from her diet until 1 week following the complete resolution of her cough

If the cough is simply her immune system having difficulty kicking the common cold, then it is actually best to let her body fight it off. It gives her immune system a workout that’s how it learns! Also, aside from the diagnostic qualities of her sputum, if your daughter swallows it, it does not harm her. Any bug or germs she coughs up will be killed in the acidic environment of her stomach.

If you don’t already have one, I recommend you find a family N.D. Everyone should have one! Situations like this can be remedied quickly and usually without antibiotics, instead using appropriate botanical medicine, homeopathics, and naturopathic supplementation following an appropriate physical exam and diagnostic assessment.

Good luck! And thanks for your question!

Dr. Corinne

Have a question for Dr. Corinne? Send her an email at and your question will be answered here. These suggestions are not intended to provide diagnosis or substitute a private consultation with your healthcare practitioner.

About Dr. Corinne, Health & Wellness Editor

Naturopathic Doctor, Corinne Brown BSc, ND, established her Naturopathic practice, Brownroots Wellness, in May of 2011. Her practice focuses on women’s health, weight loss, chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. Corinne also focuses her practice on pre-and-post natal health, fertility, and offers Naturopathic Perinatal Classes. She is very passionate about pregnancy and birth, and is also a trained Birth & Labor Doula. Dr. Corinne is the Natural Mommie Health & Wellness Editor who posts a Q&A series of natural health and wellness topics as well as healthy living tips for women, moms and moms to be.

8 thoughts on “ask the doctor: cough, cold & immune support

  1. I read an article where Eucalyptus oil put in boiling water and let to steam can help when the steam vapors are breathed in 2 or 3 times a day for at least 5 minutes each time. It said that Eucalyptus oil was a natural antibacterial and often times as effective for treating sinusitis as antibiotics if used daily for a couple of weeks.
    Is this true? I get frequent sinus flare ups where the mucus is green, but it drains back in my throat. This of course causes coughing. I saw an actual ENT, but he said at my age and since my septum wasn’t very deviated that it was best just to treat the symptoms when they occured with a month to six weeks worth of antibiotics. Yes, not 10 days, but a month to six weeks. He said that is what is needed in people who have them as frequently as I do, and to not wait, but treatment right away. However my primary will only give 10 days of antibiotics.
    I’m thinking of trying the Eucalyptus oil steam treatments instead. Are there any adverse side effects from using this type of treatment that you know about before I decide? Thank you.

    1. Hi Lauralee,
      I saw your post about eucalyptus oils and sinuses and I hope it is ok if I chime in. I create aromatherapy products for healthcare issues such as sinuses, headaches, sleep aids etc. Organic eucalyptus oil is excellent for its anti-bacterial/anti-viral properties and is fabulous to use for sinus issues. It opens the sinuses and can kill infection. Other oils that are useful to use for sinus support are tea tree and peppermint. I tell my patients to hang their head over a bowl of steaming water and use 2 drops of euclyptus, peppermint, and tea tree. Inhale deeply.

      It is important to make sure that you are using only oils that are both organic and therapeutic-grade. This has to do with the way that the oils plants are harvested and the oils extracted making sure that there is no chemicals, synthetic fertilizers or pesticides used. If you buy these oils and they are not of a higher quality, they will not work as well if at all.

      If you have any more questions or need help, I would be happy to answer anything for you. My e-mail is You can also visit my site for more information about aromatherapy

      Take Care,

  2. yes, eucalyptus steam inhalations are also very helpful to break up mucous and to help recover from the respiratory tract infection. try it with just a few drops in the water, and put a towel over your head and breathe in the vapors. there are no major side effects to be concerned with…definitely much fewer side effects than the antibiotics! 4-6 weeks of antibiotics seems excessive – definitely try the oil first!
    tanja – you can put a few eucalyptus drops into your daughter’s vaporizer as well.

  3. I’m so happy someone asked this question {and that you answered it!} because Aidan has been sick with a cough and cold for way too long. About 3 weeks now. I was letting it run its course, but it doesn’t seem to be improving so I think I’ll take him in. It sounds pretty deep. I just hate having to depend on antibiotics, but like you said – there is a time and a place when they are necessary. Thanks for another great Q&A Dr. Corinne!

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