A cough is one of the most common reasons for children to go to the doctor. It is a symptom that often accompanies viral respiratory illnesses in children. Coughing can occur for many different reasons and may sound or feel different depending on the type of cough.
The two main types of cough are a dry cough and a wet cough:
- A dry cough actually sounds dry and is considered an unproductive cough.
- A wet cough cough usually produces some sort of mucus and is considered a productive cough or congested cough.
- A cough that lasts continuously for more than five minutes is called a coughing spasm.
Most coughs are caused by a viral infection. Most children will get a cough with a viral infection a couple of times a year as part of a cold virus. These viral infections are not serious. Your child should be evaluated immediately if their breathing becomes fast or labored. Prolonged coughing greater than three weeks could be a symptom of a more serious illness and should always be evaluated by a healthcare provider. Any illness that causes fever for more than three days should also be evaluated by a healthcare provider.
While coughing is not necessarily a sign of serious illness, it can disrupt a child’s sleep and cause discomfort.
Cough suppressant medications are not recommended. For children over one year try using ½ to 1 teaspoon of honey to soothe their throat (Do not use honey if your infant is less than a year old).
Humidifiers help to moisten the airways, as dry air tends to make a cough worse. Encouraging extra fluids will also loosen up the mucus and prevent dehydration. For older children, try using warm liquids such as warm apple juice, lemonade, or warm tea. This can relax the airway and loosen up the mucus.
Other contributing factors that may worsen or cause coughing include allergens, irritants such as smoke inhalation, polluted air inhalation, and dust. Coughing helps protect the lungs by clearing out germs. If your child has a cough, avoid letting anyone smoke around your child. Exposure to smoke could worsen your child’s cough and prolong your child’s recovery.
While coughing can be caused by a variety of reasons, it is important to have your child’s cough evaluated by a healthcare provider, especially if they develop a prolonged cough, have changes in the intensity of the cough, wheezing, or any other signs of increased work of breathing. If you have questions or concerns, consult your pediatrician or healthcare provider.
Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care opened in 2006 in San Antonio, Texas. With multiple locations in San Antonio and Dallas, they are open seven days a week with extended evening hours and see walk-in patients or through an online check-in system. They accept most commercial insurance and Medicaid plans. More information about Little Spurs Pediatric Urgent Care can be found at www.littlespurspedi.com