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What's Making Your Child Cough?

A kid covering her nose
Everyone coughs from time to time - even healthy kids. They might cough after they inhale a little dust or swallow some water wrong. But if you notice your child coughing more than once every several days, you need to look into the cause. Some causes of coughing in children are of little concern, but many can have serious consequences if left untreated. Keep reading to discover five common causes of coughing in children.

1. Common Cold

The common cold does not always cause coughing, but it certainly can. Colds typically come on slowly, causing symptoms like a runny nose, sneezing, general congestion, and a mild sore throat. Your child might have a low-grade fever. As long as they are not struggling to breathe, don't have a fever over 102 degrees F, and are continuing to eat and drink, you don't have to be too worried.

Contact your pediatrician if the symptoms don't improve within a few days. While antibiotics will not help treat a cold, since the common cold is viral and antibiotics only kill bacteria, your pediatrician will want to ensure your child's cough does not have a more sinister, underlying cause. 

2. Influenza

If your child's cough is accompanied by marked fatigue, an obvious fever and chills, headaches, a lack of appetite, and muscle aches, then they might have the flu. Generally, flu symptoms are more serious than cold symptoms. The flu can be deadly in young children.

Most children recover from the flu without any medical intervention, but you should contact the pediatrician if your child:
  • Is 2 years old or younger
  • Is struggling to breath
  • Has a serious sore throat
  • Feels like they are going to pass out
  • Has a bluish color to the skin
  • Does not drink enough to remain hydrated
Your pediatrician may recommend pain-relieving and fever-reducing drugs to make your child more comfortable as their body fights off the flu virus.

3. Pneumonia

Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs. It can be caused by bacteria or a virus, although bacterial pneumonia is more common. A cough that produces blood or bloody mucus is a sign of pneumonia. Other symptoms include chest pain, trouble breathing, extreme exhaustion, clamminess, confusion, and lack of appetite.

If you have any reason to suspect your child has pneumonia, seek medical care ASAP. Bacterial pneumonia is treatable with antibiotics, and supportive therapies like IV fluids are extremely beneficial even for patients with viral pneumonia. Kids do die from pneumonia, even today, and often because they do not receive appropriate medical care.

4. Pertussis

Also known as whooping cough, pertussis causes a distinct, hacking cough that ends in a high-pitched noise. Other symptoms include a fever, runny nose, and nasal congestion. Thick mucus accumulates in the airways, making breathing increasingly difficult as the illness progresses.

Adults can carry the whooping cough bacteria without suffering from symptoms and then pass it on to kids. All children with suspected whooping cough need to see a pediatrician. Most cases can be managed at home with prescription antibiotics, rest, and fluids. Very young children may need to be hospitalized.

5. Indoor Allergies

If a dry, shallow cough seems to be your child's only symptom - or if they also have some mild sneezing, itching, or watery eyes - they could be suffering from indoor allergies to dust or mold spores. In this case, you'll often notice the coughing get worse when your child has been indoors all day or when the forced air heat kicks on.

You can manage mild allergy symptoms by keeping your home clean and administering over-the-counter antihistamines as needed and as per your pediatrician's instructions. If your child's cough and other allergy symptoms become more frequent and bothersome, your pediatrician may recommend allergy testing and prescription medications.

If your child develops a cough, make sure you pay close attention to their other symptoms to deduce which of the above causes may be at fault. If you suspect pertussis, pneumonia, or a more serious case of the flu, contact the experts at Y.H. Parikh & Associates to schedule an appointment.