Keeping Kids Healthy Advice
Coughing is the body’s way to clear air passages. Coughing is a symptom of illness, not a disease. Therefore the illness that is causing your child to have a cough may require treatment.
Coughing can be caused by many things, such as the common cold, inhaling small particles from the air, smoking, asthma, bacterial or viral infections that affect the lungs, or severe illness, such as pneumonia.
Older children and adults can usually tell whether their cough is caused by inhaling dust or smoke particles or by an infection. But when your younger child coughs, you might not be able to tell whether your child is ill or has something in his or her air passages. If your child has a fever accompanying the cough, then he or she probably has an infection.
Even though coughing is a healthy bodily reflex, several types of coughs may require a visit to your child’s doctor. If you learn to tell the difference between the types of coughs, you know how to deal with them and be able to tell if your child needs to see his or her doctor.
A "barking" cough is usually caused by an inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe) known as croup. It is associated viral upper respiratory infections, allergies or sudden changes in temperature at night. When a young child's airway becomes inflamed, it can swell around the vocal cords, making it harder to breathe. Children younger than 3 years of age get croup most often because their windpipes are narrow. Croup can occur suddenly in the middle of the night, which can be frightening for both you and your child. Although most cases can be managed at home, if you suspect your child has croup, call your child's doctor to determine whether your child needs to visit him or her.
Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a deadly vaccine-preventable disease. The whooping noise is a symptom of pertussis and occurs after coughing, when the child tries to take a deep breath. Children with pertussis may not get enough oxygen and may even stop breathing. If you think that your child may have pertussis and he or she has not had the DTaP (diphtheria/tetnus/pertussis) vaccination, see a doctor immediately.
When your child makes a wheezing sound when he or she exhales, it may be a sign that something is blocking the lower airway. This happen if there is swelling from a respiratory infection, asthma , or an object stuck in the airway. Call your doctor unless your child is already being treated for asthma and you have medicine to treat it. If cough and wheezing do not improve with medication, call your child's doctor.
Call your doctor if your child:
Is coughing up green, rust-colored, yellow, bloody, or foul smelling phlegm
Has trouble breathing
Has bluish lips, face or tongue
Has chest pain
Is short of breath or wheezing
Has pain or swelling in his or her calves
Has a recurrent night-time cough
Has sudden weight loss
Has high fever, especially if your child is a young infant.