Dr. Corey A. Fish (He/Him)
30 May 2019Dr. Corey A. Fish (He/Him)

Cough In Children

Cough In Children

Children cough for a variety of reasons. It's one of the most common reasons to visit a doctor's office.

The appropriate treatment for a child with a cough largely depends on the cause but may include home remedies such as fluids, honey, saline, or nasal suction; over the counter medicines (though these should not be used in children under 4 years of age without discussing it with a healthcare professional, or prescription medication).

A young child smiles while holding an ice cream cone.

Common causes of cough in children

  • Viruses:  By far the most common cause of cough in children is mucous draining backward down the throat from an upper respiratory virus.  Viruses can also cause lower airway infections (pneumonia).
  • Bacteria:  Bacterial causes of cough, particularly sinus infections and pneumonia, are uncommon in preschool-age children.  Antibiotics are typically needed for bacterial causes of cough.
  • Allergies:  Seasonal allergy symptoms can definitely cause cough.  Seasonal allergies are less common in children before about age 2-3yo as it takes a couple of seasons of exposure typically to develop allergies.
  • Asthma:  Asthma is a condition marked by inflammation of the airways in the lungs, increased production of mucous in the lungs, and spasm (narrowing) of the airways.  It is more common in children with a family or personal history of asthma, allergies, and/or eczema.  Asthma is usually treated with a combination of inhaled medicines.

Signs your child needs to see a medical professional

  • Cough for more than 2-3 weeks and well-appearing
  • Any noisy, heavy, fast, or labored breathing
  • Your child looks unwell or has low energy
  • Fever for more than 48 hours (on and off) with a cough
  • Noisy breath in after a coughing fit (may indicate whooping cough)
  • Any time you're worried

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