A COUGH is a common symptom of respiratory illness (most often, the common cold). Although coughs sound bad, keep in mind that coughing is the body's way of clearing the airways of the lungs and protecting your child from getting pneumonia. Most coughs are caused by a viral infection. An infection of the trachea (windpipe) is called tracheitis; an example of this kind of viral illness is croup. Most children get such a viral infection as part of a cold. These infections are usually not serious.
HOW LONG WILL THE COUGH LAST:
- A viral upper respiratory infection usually causes a dry, tickly cough that can last 2-3 weeks. Sometimes the cough becomes wet for a few days, and your child coughs up a lot of phlegm (mucus). This is usually a sign that the end of the illness is near.
HOME TREATMENTS FOR COUGH:
- HOMEMADE COUGH SYRUP: Children 1 to 4 years old use ½ to 1 tsp of corn syrup. The corn syrup thins secretions and loosens the cough.
- COUGH DROPS: Most coughs in children over the age of 4 years can be helped by sucking on cough drops or hard candy. The cough drops coat the irritated throat and help to calm the cough.
- WARM LIQUIDS FOR COUGHING SPASMS: Warm liquids usually relax the airway and loosen the mucus. Warm clear juices and teas are best.
- COUGH-SUPPRESSANT MEDICATIONS: Cough-suppressant drops reduce the cough reflex. However, keep in mind that the cough reflex helps protect the lungs. Use these medications only for dry coughs that interfere with sleep or school attendance. They may also help children who complain of chest pains from coughing spasms. Do not use them for children less than 6 years old and for wet coughs. Most non-prescription cough suppressants contain dextromethorphan (DM). Some examples what we recommend are Robitussin DM or Delsym products. Any store brand "tussin DM" is fine also.
- HUMIDIFIERS: Dry air tends to irritate a cough and make it worse. Use a cool-mist humidifier in the child's room and encourage your child to drink plenty of liquids.
It is important to avoid certain triggers when your child is sick with a cough. Exercise may trigger coughing spasms when a child has an upper respiratory infection. If so, certain physical activity should be avoided temporarily (gym). Smoking around your child or being in an environment with a smoker may also trigger the cough.
*** Antihistamines, decongestants, and antipyretics (fever-reducers) are found in many cough syrups. There is no proof that these extra ingredients will help your child's cough. Stick with the simple remedies as above for the best results and remember that ultimately, only time will heal the cough.
CALL OUR OFFICE IMMEDIATELY IF …
- Breathing becomes difficult AND is not better after you clear the nose.
- Breathing becomes fast or labored (when your child is not coughing).
- Your child is acting very sick.
CALL DURING REGULAR OFFICE HOURS IF …
- There has been a fever for more than three days.
- The cough is lasting more than 2-3 weeks and is not improving
- Your child has a history of Asthma or Reactive Airway Disease.
- You have any questions or concerns.
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