A cough is a symptom of a number of different illnesses. Most commonly, a cough is the symptom of a virus, but can also be caused by bacterial illnesses like pneumonia, asthma, allergies, or foreign objects in your child's airway.
Signs a cough needs medical attention:
- If you are worried your child inhaled a foreign object go to the emergency room.
- Barking cough: a same day visit with a pediatric urgent care or your primary care provider is recommended. A barking cough can be a sign of croup, a viral illness that can cause inflammation of the upper airways. A provider can administer a simple treatment in the office to help with this problem. Here is a good example of what a "barking" cough sounds like.
- Wheezing or noisy breathing: a pediatric urgent care or same day PCP visit is recommended. Your child needs to be evaluated to make sure they are getting enough air into their lungs. A provider can administer a number of different medications to help your child get enough oxygen.
If your child is not breathing or is turning blue, start first aid if you know how and call 911!
Home care tips for a cough:
If you're not worried about an emergency or urgent medical condition, below are some home care tips to try for a cough.
- Honey (if your child is over 1 year old). 2 tsp of honey before bed has been proven to alleviate cough symptoms and aid sleep
- Cool mist humidifier
- Steam shower: Sit with your child in a bathroom with the door shut while the hot water is running in the shower. Alternatively, you may take a warm shower with your child
- Ibuprofen (for children older than 6 months) may help improve cough symptoms in children
- Prop your child up on some extra pillows (children under a year should sleep on their back on a firm crib mattress without pillows or blankets due to risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- Avoid allowing your child to get too warm at night. Children being overheated may increase coughing
This symptom guide is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you think your child may have a life threatening emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.