5 Reasons For Toddler’s Coughing At Night According to Experts

Coughs and colds are common among children especially when its winter.

In fact:

Children get eight to ten colds per year until they’re about two years old. But just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that we should take toddler coughing at night lightly.

Sometimes, it may just be caused by simple saliva blocking the air passages; other times, it could be a symptom of a more serious underlying cause.


Here we give you some reasons your baby coughs at night and what you can do about them.


Why Is My Toddler Coughing At Night Only?

gassy baby

1. Sleep apnea

Your baby is fast asleep when all of a sudden you hear her cough; sometimes she even sounds like she’s choking. If this happens almost every night, your little one can have sleep apnea.

Experts say that sleep apnea is a serious disorder that affects both kids and adults. It is when your child’s tonsils and adenoids are enlarged and block your kids’ airway passages when she’s sleeping.

This is more likely to happen at night because the muscles in the throat relax then the tonsils and adenoids block the air passage.


Sleep apnea is not a condition that goes away with time. So if you think your child has it, you have to see a doctor.

The doctor may place your child under observation or ask a sleep expert to conduct further testing. Your toddler may then be referred to an ENT (ear, nose, throat) specialist and check the tonsils and adenoid glands.

If sleep apnea is confirmed, your child may have to undergo a minor operation.

2. Croup

If you hear your baby coughing like a barking seal then she’s struggling to catch her breath, but then she’s OK at daytime, she may be having croup. Other symptoms include having stridor when inhaling.

According to KidsHealth, croup is caused by a virus that creates laryngeal and tracheal inflammation. It’s common from October to March due to the weather.

You can take your child in a place with cold air or sit in a steamy bathroom with your child for about 15 minutes.

Either of the two helps relax the airways. You may also put a cool-mist humidifier in her room.


If your little one is really having a hard time breathing or if stridor lasts for about 5 minutes, you have to see a doctor immediately.

Croup goes away on its own, but every child’s system is different from others; some kids may beat it better than the others.

3. Asthma

Another possible reason for your toddler’s coughing at night is asthma. Some of its symptoms include a dry cough that usually lasts the entire winter time and is worse or only appears at night.

There’s also that wheezing sound when your tiny tot breathes plus her chest caves in when breathing.

Asthma is a chronic condition says the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; hence, another sign you have to watch out for is the repetitiveness of a cough that goes along with the changes in weather. It may also be triggered by exercise and allergies.

If you suspect asthma:

You also have to see your doctor who will then diagnose your child through a physical exam and asking about parents’ health history.

Depending on the severity of your toddlers’ cough, she may be given a bronchodilator or a preventive medicine altogether.

4. Bronchitis

If your toddler’s coughing at night is accompanied by mucus—green, white, clear, or yellowish—fatigue, and chest discomfort, she may be having bronchitis.

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, which is usually caused by a respiratory infection.

According to Mayo Clinic, acute bronchitis usually goes away on its own usually within a few weeks, but your child’s doctor may prescribe a cough suppressant to help your kid rest. 

On top of this:

You should also let her drink plenty of fluids and breathe warm yet moist air.

5. Sinusitis

The last of the topmost reasons your toddler coughs only at night is sinusitis.

This is a result of the inflammation cavities around the nasal passages also referred to as the sinus.

When this passage is inflamed, the mucus builds up in that area which leads to blockage. Also, mucus drainage is affected.

Sinusitis may be a result of different factors: infection, allergies, nasal polyps, deviated septum, or other diseases says MedlinePlus. Symptoms of sinusitis include tenderness around the eye area along with the nasal congestion.

By and large, sinusitis goes away on its own and should nothing to be worried about.

To help your child breathe when there’s nasal congestion:

You may elevate the head area of the bed or place an extra pillow under her head. You may also let her breathe in vapor rub on a towel or use a nasal aspirator.

If symptoms persist for more than five days, tell your doctor about it.


sleeping baby

Toddler coughing at night may be caused by different factors as illustrated above. Some may be light; others may be severe. If your child has symptoms not mentioned here, check other possibilities.

But again:

We remind you to know your child reacts to it. If she’s having a fever and is lethargic, consult your pediatrician.

In my experience, I would observe my daughter for two days. If she didn’t get better, I immediately make an appointment with her doctor. 

Sarah Morgan

Chief editor of WellBeingKid.com and striving mom-extraordinaire.Let me share and inspire you with my daily struggles to live a healthier and more fulfilling life.

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