Pediatric Cough Treatment Questions and Answers
Coughing in your children can become hard on their bodies and cause them to lose sleep or not feel well. If your child’s cough is keeping them up at night, or showing signs of not going away, call Night Lite Pediatrics or walk-in! Our pediatricians specialize in children’s illness and can help your child feel better sooner!
What Are the Different Types of Coughs?
There is not just one type of cough, in all actuality, there are several different types of coughs someone could be suffering from. Understanding the different types of coughs can help you to know when to handle them at home or when to see your child’s pediatric doctor.
The most common types of coughs are:
- “Barky” Cough
The “barky” cough is generally caused by the swelling in the upper airway. A “barky” cough can come from croup, which is the swelling of the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). Younger children have much smaller airways than adults, and if swollen can make it hard for them to breathe. Kids younger than 3 are the highest risk for croup due to their airways being so narrow.
- Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is an infection in the airways which is caused by bacteria. Kids with whooping cough will have spells of back-to-back coughs without being able to breathe in-between. Once finished, they will take a deep breath and then make what we hear as a “whooping” sound. Other symptoms derived from a whooping cough include runny nose, sneezing, mild cough and a low-grade fever.
- Cough with wheezing
If you child is making a wheezing or whistling sound when breathing out, it could mean that the lower airways in their lungs are swollen. This can happen a lot with asthma or with a viral infection like bronchiolitis. Wheezing can also be happy if the lower airways are blocked by foreign objects. A child who may start to cough after inhaling something like food or a small toy should see a doctor immediately.
- Nighttime cough
Children tend to have their coughing get worse at night. If your child has a cold, the mucus from the nose and sinuses can drain down the back of their throat and trigger a cough during their sleep. This can become a problem if the cough will not let your child sleep. As well, asthma can also trigger nighttime coughing because the airways tend to be more sensitive and irritable at night.
- Daytime cough
Cold air or any activity can make coughing worse during the daytime. To make sure nothing in your house is adding to your child’s cough, remove air fresheners, or smoke from the area and have your child stay away from household pets to see if the coughing eases up.
- Cough with a fever
A child who has a cough can also run a mild fever and a runny nose, this usually leads to them having a common cold. However, coughs with a fever of 102F or higher can sometimes be due to pneumonia, especially if your child is weak and breathing rapidly. In this case, call your pediatrician immediately.
- Cough with vomiting
Kids cough too often, and much of it is triggered from their gag reflex, which makes them vomit. A child who has a cough or cold or even an asthma flare-up might also vomit if lots of mucus drains into the stomach and causes any nausea. This isn’t normally cause for alarm unless the vomiting does not stop.
- Persistent cough
Coughs that are caused by colds due to a virus can last weeks, particularly if a child has one cold right after another. Asthma, allergies or chronic infections in the sinuses or airways also can lead to lasting coughs. If your child’s cough is lasting longer than 3 weeks, call your pediatrician.
How Are Coughs Treated?
Mainly, coughs are caused by a virus and they just have to run their course. Generally, it can take up to 2 weeks for it to run its course. Doctors do not usually prescribe antibiotics, as they only work against bacterial infections.
Unless a cough is causing your child to lose sleep, cough medicines are not needed. They might help a child to stop coughing, but they also do not treat the cause of a cough. Read the instructions and dosage information to figure out what your child needs, or if your child can have the over-the-counter medication.
Over-the-counter cough medicines are not recommended for children under the age of 6 years old.
When Should I Call the Doctor?
Call our office or walk-in if your child is coughing and:
- Has issues breathing or is working harder to breathe
- Breathing is quicker than usual
- Has blue or dusky color to the lips, face or tongue
- Has a fever (and especially if your child does not have a runny or stuffy nose)
- Has any fever and is younger than 3 months old
- Younger than 3 months and has been coughing for more than a few hours
- Makes a “whooping” sound when breathing in after a cough
- Coughing up blood
- Wheezing when breathing out
- Weak, cranky or irritable
- Signs of dizziness, drowsiness, dry or sticky mouth, crying with little or no tears, peeing less