We do love testing parenting hacks, so when Dani, a mum on our team, told us a friend had suggested a sliced brown onion would stop her child coughing at night, we told her to investigate.


"My 4-year-old daughter has had a cough and cold on and off for ages," Dani says."Literally all she did was cough. We'd tried vapour rub on her feet and breathing in steam but she just couldn’t stop.

"And then a friend said, ‘Have you done the onion in the bedroom?’

"I couldn't believe what she was suggesting but she was adamant that it helped her daughter who couldn’t stop coughing. She explained you take a regular brown onion, peel it, slice it in half and put it in the bedroom with your child – near but safely out of reach.

"Well, we were desperate, and willing to try anything at this point, so we sliced an onion and stuck it under our the head end of our daughter's bed.

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"It really did stink! And took a few days for the smell to go –and lots of airing the bedroom. But, that night, she had periods of relief between the coughing.

"She did still cough but she also had large chunks of sleep in between, whereas, the nights before, she was coughing all night.

So Dani's experiment wasn't conclusive. Time to bring in our expert GP...

The expert doctor's opinion: can a brown onion cure a cough?

"There's no evidence it can," says our expert family GP Dr Philippa Kaye. "There can be some truth in old wives' tales or folklore remedies, passed down in families but there are no studies backing up the use of either onions or garlic for coughing in children.

"It's true that both onions and garlic have been used around the world in medications for centuries but, unfortunately, there isn't evidence for a chopped onion in the room curing a cough – though it is unlikely to do any harm!

About our expert Dr Philippa Kaye

Dr Philippa Kaye works as a GP in both NHS and private practice. She attended Downing College, Cambridge, then took medical studies at Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’s medical schools in London, training in paediatrics, gynaecology, care of the elderly, acute medicine, psychiatry and general practice. Dr Philippa has also written a number of books, including ones on child health, diabetes in childhood and adolescence. She is a mum of 3.

Pic: Getty Images


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Tara BreathnachContent Editor and Social Media Producer

Tara is mum to 1 daughter, Bodhi Rae, and has worked as Content Editor and Social Media Producer at MadeForMums since 2015