Cough is a common sickness for children. It is usually caused by respiratory tract infections such as a cold. Only occasionally a cough may be caused by a bacterial infection in the throat or chest.
Different types of coughs:
- Barky cough
- Whooping cough
- Cough with wheezing
- Nighttime cough
- Daytime cough
- Cough with a fever
- Cough with vomiting
- Persistent cough
Sometimes children cough for many weeks after a viral infection, this is called a post-viral cough.
When should I see a doctor
If your child seems unwell and you are concerned, take your child to a doctor. Also go the doctor if your child is coughing and:
- Has trouble breathing
- Is breathing faster than usual
- Has a blue color to the lips, face, fingernails or tongue
- Has a high fever, especially if younger than 3 months old
- Blood is showing in the cough
- Your child has a noisy sound when breathing in and out
- Your child gets dehydrated, dizziness, drowsiness, a dry or sticky mouth, or sunken eyes.
Most coughs are caused by viruses and take up to 2 weeks before they disappear.
- Cough medicines for children below 6 years of age should be used when recommended by doctor if a cough is very strong or won’t let your child sleep, medication might be needed
- For a “barky” or “croupy” cough, turn on the hot water in the shower in your bathroom and close the door so the room can steam up. Then spend 15 minutes with your child inside. The steam can help your child breathe more easily
- Do not expose your child to cigarette smoke, bad air or strong air conditioning
- One teaspoon of honey taken 30 minutes before bedtime may be helpful for children older than 1 year old. Babies should not eat honey
Note that antibiotics don’t help with coughs caused by viruses. Some cough may be caused by a bacterial infection in the throat. In these cases, antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to treat a bacterial infection. But again, usually cough medicines are not recommended for children below 6 years of age. Mucolytics are usually prescribed by doctors but not cough suppressant to ease the symptom.
Dr. Wanwadee Sapmee Panyakat, MD. (1 April 2020)