“How can I help my child relieve ‘Beijing cough’?”
If you’re new to Beijing, you may be wondering what “Beijing cough” is. This reader is referring to an observation where coughs seem to persist for longer than usual. This is likely due to two factors: dryness (which can irritate the respiratory system) and pollution. Beijing cough is caused by an upper respiratory tract infection and may take a long time to resolve.
In general, a cough is a good thing; it’s the body’s way of protecting itself against irritants. Usually it’s best not to suppress a cough, but the main issue here is that it can interfere with sleep, which kids need for rapid recovery. A sleepless child leads to a sleepless parent, and we all know that’s not a good thing.
So what can you do to ease your child’s cough? Here are a few of my favorite natural remedies:
• Honey: Recommended by the World Health Organization as a cough treatment, honey has antimicrobial properties, meaning it can help destroy or stop the growth of harmful microorganisms. Several studies have demonstrated its effectiveness. I recommend 2tsp of honey at bedtime. However, remember that children under the age of 1 should avoid honey due to the risk of infant botulism.
• Humidity: Having a humidifier at home and in the bedroom can make a big difference. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can hang your wet laundry in the room overnight; it won’t provide as much moisture, but it’s better than nothing. Taking a hot shower with lots of steam before bed is another alternative.
• Fluids: It’s important to drink enough fluids when you have a cough, especially when it’s aggravated by dry air. Asides from warm water, I recommend uncaffeinated tea, fresh juice, and homemade chicken soup.
• Tea: To soothe a cough, consider thyme, peppermint, or ginger tea. Thyme is a natural cough suppressant that lacks the harmful side effects of conventional medications. To make your own, infuse 2tsp of dried thyme per cup of tea. Ginger helps to break up mucous and phlegm. Cut a few slices of fresh ginger and boil in a pot; make a concentrated batch, then add hot water and lemon to taste.
• NAC: N-acetyl cysteine is an amino acid that has a long history of use as a mucolytic, meaning that it breaks down mucous and allows it to be more easily coughed up. There’s an over-the-counter medicine in China that contains NAC called Fluimucil (fùlùsh), but it also contains aspartame. I prefer to give my kids NAC by itself. It can be purchased on Taobao but since I don’t trust the source, I bring it back from overseas. Kids from ages 3 to 7 can safely consume up to 400mg a day.