Saline Nasal Rinse: An Easy Remedy for Night Time Coughing

saline nasal spray for night time coughing

It’s been over a year now that my son, Tristan’s coughing wakes him up at night. The allergist swears it’s asthma, and while he wheezes on occasion, mostly when he’s sick, I’m not convinced his habitual coughing in bed is his asthma flaring up. It got so bad at one point that anytime he laughed he’d have long, intense coughing fits. Again, our allergist said it was severe asthma and that given my son’s condition, he’d be on inhaled steroids daily for the rest of his life.

We’ve been using Flovent on and off for prevention, as well as Ventolin as needed, and both seemed to really help. But I was frustrated because Flovent seems to trigger more aggressive behavior in my five-year-old. So, I called the allergist, whose nurse told me it is very rare to see aggression on an inhaled steroid. Usually, it’s just the child doesn’t feel well and is aggressive from breathing difficulties. I could see that. I’m much less patient and on edge when I’m sick or not feeling well. Made sense. I was talking with the nurse for some time and she asked if my son was a good nose blower. To which I laughed. My son HATES to blow his nose and when he reluctantly does so, it’s a weak, pathetic attempt. My daughter on the other hand, she could blow the trumpet with her nose blowing – she’s a pro!

saline nasal spray for night time coughingAfter hearing about my son’s sensitive nose, the nurse suggested a saline nasal spray to remove the leaky drainage and congestion in the nose, perhaps it would help the coughing. My ears perked up because honestly, just one week before, I was reading  Asthma, Allergies Children: A Parents Guide (a must read for any parent of an atopic child) on the plane ride home from the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference and guess what triggered my interest at that time too? Yup, you guessed it, using saline nasal sprays for asthmatics with night-time coughing! Turns out some of Tristan’s coughing was likely due to inflammation in the lungs caused by post nasal drip! What? Why wasn’t I told this before? Or maybe it was the first time I really grasped it. Goodness knows my brain is always so full after leaving any medical appointment. I know I’m guilty of not taking it all in sometimes too. It’s possible I was told this before, but regardless, it was news to me when reading about it and then when the nurse reinforced this idea.

I hung up the phone feeling hopeful and went to the store to buy a bottle of saline nasal spray. Wow, I thought my son hated blowing his nose, but trying to spray the saline into his nose, honestly, close to impossible. We worked with bribery (I know, the shame!) and sheer force to hold him down for several mornings and nights, each one getting easier, until soon it was barely a fight. And miracles of miracles, the night-time coughing stopped! Completely stopped. He’d have a random cough here and there during the day and sometimes at night, but the wet active coughing was gone!  We completely stopped using Ventolin and Flovent as there was absolutely no need for it!

Since we’re doing homeopathy for my son’s asthma/allergies/eczema as well as the GAPS diet (posts coming soon) for the same reasons, to be sure it was the saline nasal spray doing the trick and not the homeopathy or dietary changes, we stopped the spray alone for one full day – that night he coughed a lot. It was obvious, the saline nasal spray has really helped my son. Have you seen the same for your child?


  1. Amazing and Atopic (@AmazingAtopic) on December 3, 2013 at 10:20 am

    As you know, my daughter has been on Qvar for a year and it is working well, but I don’t have plans for her to have a lifelong need for inhaled corticosteroids, so we’re also working on getting the nasal saline going. I, too, was amazed by that passage in Asthma Allergies Children, and as I recall, it can also help keep the nasal passages from being damaged, which can sometimes happen with long-term nasal steroid use. I just can’t figure out the proper technique! Any tips? I have this spray bottle, but it seems to shoot out fizzy bubbles and I’m not sure that’s what should be happening. Any tips would be appreciated. 🙂

    • Jennifer on December 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

      Hey Selena! First of all, is your daughter ok with the spray version? My son was totally freaked out by it, but he came up with the idea of blind folding him and then doing it. He doesn’t even flinch. I think for him, it was more the anticipation and seeing the spray getting close to his nose. It works great! Now, you definitely want more of a jet spray, not a foamy mess. Is it brand new? If so, I’d take it back and get another brand. Even better than the sprays are the netti pot, if your daughter will go for it. It’s cheaper and can be reused time and time again. You can get a saline water solution from the pharmacy to refill it with. I hope that helps!

  2. Sabra on December 3, 2013 at 11:28 am

    My son has asthma that flares up with colds. He does cough while falling to sleep. The cough, though, is not an asthma cough but more of a throat clearing cough because there is mucous. We have been using the nasal rinse for 3 months and have found it helps with night time snottiness and throat clearing and he says it does make him feel better. We have tried a couple but are favouring the NeilMed Sinus Rinse We like the easy-use bottle and the rinse has no funny taste and does not sting. We have found that some brands have a strange taste that is unpleasant. I should also add we employ many things (diet, air purifier, supplements) to help him and this is just part of the plan.

    • Jennifer on December 6, 2013 at 6:42 pm

      We’re hoping to move to more of a net I pot when we run out of the spay. Much more Eco friendly.

  3. sabraway on December 9, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Hello Ladies. I highly recommend the nasal rince company I listed above. I have tried the mist bottle and it was OK but I found not much actually got in the nose and my son hesitated to use it. Then we tried the rinses where you have to tilt your head to the side (neti pot style) and he was not getting any in his nose. The Pediatric Neil med container works really well. It has the flow of a Neti pot but the bottle is built like a siphon. You gently squeeze (my son can do it no problem) the bottle holding it directly under your nose up to the nostril and it gently creates a straight up stream. I have taught him to gently snuff as he does this and voila the rinse flows in and actually reaches the sinus’s. The bottle comes with little packets of the salt mixture that you mix with water. It is the best system I have found.

    NeilMed Sinus Rinse

  4. lily on June 2, 2014 at 4:32 am

    Hi my son had autism. He is nonverbal. He has battled a severe chronic cough for several months. Doctors say its asthma and allergies. His flovent and rescue inhaler help somewhat but he still struggles with the bad cough. He does not understand how to blow his nose. I am desperate to help him. Please help.

    • Jennifer on June 5, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Lily – I’m so sorry to hear this! Have you tried a nasal wash/rinse to see if it helps at all? The other thing I’d recommend you consider is looking at his diet, which can greatly affect asthma and autism. Have you considered an elimination diet or something more extreme and actually created specifically for autism like GAPS? Jennifer

      • lily on June 13, 2014 at 8:15 am

        Follow up. The nelimed rinses seem to be helping with daily Zyrtec. He was on Zyrtec prior to rinses but still had the cough. I stopped Zyrtec and the cough came back. I don’t understand the cause of the cough or why it comes back immediately if I stop either the rinses or the Zyrtec. I reaaly don’t like to have him on the Zyrtec but don’t know what else to try.

        • Jennifer on June 17, 2014 at 10:27 am

          Lily, I completely understand. Tristan is on Flovent right now with the rinses. Thankfully he doesn’t need the Flovent all the time, but during peak allergen season he sure does. For your son, do you know what his allergens are? Which pollens or is it year round? One thing that helps Tristan and I is this homeopathic allergy spray. Also, do you have an air purifier and prop him up in his bed to sleep with his head elevated? These things help as well. Jennifer

  5. Erica on April 25, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    It worked! Almost instantly. My little one has had the cough for weeks. Took her to the doctor and was told to wait it out. I felt terrible for her. She just turned 3 and is very active and the cough usually gets worse with increased activity. As I was reading your post she was coughing almost every 30 seconds. Just one cough but doing it constantly. I went in the next room and got some saline and the fight ensued! LOL:! She ran, fought me and cried. I almost gave up but she finally sat still. I ensured her that I would never hurt her and showed her the mist with my hand. She wasn’t impressed. LOL. I finally went for it. Her coughing has stopped. It’s been 15 minutes and she’s coughed twice. Thank you so much. I don’t like having to medicate her if I don’t have to so thanks for the tip.

  6. Mia on October 30, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Funny to have found this 3 1/2 years after numerous hospital visits even admissions due to coughing with a child labeled an asthmatic- wall suctions, decadron doses..nightmare
    The saline is definitely a plus..we’ve also used NeilMed (nettipot) and gone to using flonase twice a day/morning and more nebulizers with albuterol and budesonide combined…but he still can’t really blow his nose

  7. Kayla Wood on March 10, 2017 at 1:39 am

    My six-year-old son has a nasty cough with every cold and always lingers for weeks after. Like everyone else in the family will be over their colds and he will still be coughing (at night especially). I mentioned it to his pediatrician and they said it could be asthma induced but to try the saline drops first. I keep forgetting about it, but right now he has a cough and I decided to Google this to remember what I was supposed to do. So thank you for writing this article! Do you do it every single morning & night all the time regardless of his cough? Or only when he seems to have a flareup? I guess I’m wondering how you go about doing it. How many times a day and how many sprays in each nostrils. TIA!

    • Jennifer Roberge on March 13, 2017 at 2:46 pm

      Hi Kayla – My son’s asthma has improved greatly as has his immune system, so we rarely have to use it anymore. But back when he’d get sick, we’d do the rinse 2-3 times a day – one of those at night before bed. Each time, one rinse in each nostril. But I’d speak with your physican if you have questions – as they’ll be able to give you medical advice, which I’m not authorized to do 🙂 There was a time when he was sick often and his asthma and coughing would last months at a time, so we kept up with the nasal rinses daily back then. I hope this helps!

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