A Mom's Guide to Kid Coughs


What causes a cough?

Coughs can come when your children are sick or when their bodies try to fight off illness. Particularly, coughs may be a signal of a respiratory infection or other respiratory diseases such as asthma. When the mucus or phlegm gets stuck in the lining of the windpipe, the child may find it hard to breathe. At that time, coughing can help clear the way, allowing the air to move through the windpipe and into the lungs.

Types of coughs

Dry cough: Causes of a dry, hacking cough include asthma, an infection of the upper respiratory tract such as a cold or influenza, or an inflammation of the lower respiratory tract, along with bronchitis or pneumonia.
Croup cough: Children with croup may have a swollen upper trachea or windpipe. This can cause them to cough with the sound similar to a seal barking or make a high-pitched sound called stridor when they breathe in.
Wet cough: Infections and asthma can result in a wet cough with mucus found in the lower respiratory tract.
Whooping cough or pertussis: This is a bacterial infection of the child’s nose and throat. Whooping cough can have the same symptoms as the average cold but get worse after 7-10 days. Your child may suffer a series of 5 to 15 sharp coughs in rapid succession. After that, they may breathe deeply and sometimes make a “whooping” sound.

Complications of coughs

If your child suddenly starts coughing, breathes difficultly or grabs their throat, there may be something stuck in their throat or windpipe. The Heimlich maneuver (abdominal thrusts) will help if they are older than 1-year-old. Call emergency services right away when your child is younger than 1-month-old, experiences an obvious breathing disorder, loses consciousness, has a seizure, etc.

If it is not choking, you should also look out for some other serious symptoms such as vomits, chest pains, asthma, an allergic reaction, a sinus infection, a fever of 100°F or higher for more than 72 hours, or persistent coughs for more than three weeks.

Treatment for coughs

To relieve your child’s coughs, you may:

−Give your child hot liquids or soup. This can ease the soreness or irritation in the chest and prevent the mucus from thickening.
−Let your child inhale humidified air with a cool-mist humidifier, a warm shower in the bathroom or a damp towel in your kid’s bedroom
−Let your child breathe in cool air if they have a dry cough or a croup cough. You should keep them off physical activities because their coughs may become worse.
−Use over-the-counter cough medicines, particularly expectorant cough medicines and cough suppressant medicines.
−Use the DTaP vaccine for your children because it can prevent whooping coughs.

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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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