What is a cough?

A cough is a healthy and important reflex that helps protect the airways in the throat and chest. Your child coughs when nerves present throughout their throat and lungs become irritated.

Coughing is especially common in pre-school aged children. Coughs are usually caused by a viral upper respiratory tract infection like the common cold, but sometimes they can be a sign of something more serious, or may be caused by other medical conditions. It’s important to get your child’s cough checked out by your doctor if their cough is lasting for over 4 weeks, or if they are having trouble breathing. Always see your doctor if you are unsure or worried about their cough for any reason.

What is a sore throat?

A sore throat is visible as inflammation or redness at the back of the throat. Your child may find it harder to swallow, talk, eat or sleep when they have a sore throat. Like coughs, sore throats are most often caused by viral infections, though less frequently are also caused by bacterial infections. Pollution, allergy triggers or dry air can also cause sore throats.

In New Zealand, Maori and Pacific children are at risk of developing complications from their sore throat. If your Maori or Pacific child has any sore throat, it’s important to take them to your doctor for a throat swab.

Relieving coughs and sore throats

If your child’s cough or sore throat is caused by a viral infection, antibiotics won’t help and the body will clear the infection on its own. Cough medicines also aren’t useful for treating coughs.

To help relieve coughs, try:

  • Giving your child honey, although this is only suitable for babies over 12 months old
  • Keeping your child away from cigarette smoke

To relieve the pain of a sore throat you can:

  • Give your child a pain reliever like Nurofen for Children to help provide temporary relief
  • Have them gargle with warm salt water (around 1 teaspoon of salt per glass)
  • Offer them warm drinks with honey or lemon, or you could also try ice blocks
  • Try over-the-counter throat sprays or lozenges that are suitable for children

Contact your doctor for more information and advice.


This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information presented on these web pages is not meant to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters, always consult your healthcare professional.


Always read the label. Use only as directed. Incorrect use could be harmful. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare professional. Do not use if you have a stomach ulcer. Do not give to babies under 3 months of age. Seek medical advice for children under 12 months of age. Reckitt Benckiser, Auckland. TAPS-NA12948. RB-M-35815.