kids cough: sick toddler on the couch

What to do When Kids Cough

We’ve all heard it. That dreaded sound when a child starts to cough and can’t seem to shake it.

Sometimes it’s nothing more than a little dryness that we can fix with some fluids and rest. Other times, it’s a lingering, productive cough that is a sign of something slightly more sinister.

Types of kids coughs

There are so many different kinds of cough. A cough is a sign that something is irritating the windpipe. The best way to help your little one to feel better is to identify what is causing the irritation and rule out any serious and immediate dangers.

Most commonly, kids coughs are caused by a virus. This can be an infection in the upper respiratory tract which may present the symptoms of a cold at first. In most cases, fluids and rest are all that is required.

When a cough is not the result of a common virus, it is important to figure out the exact cause. Here are some common causes:

Bronchiolitis – this can start with an occasional cough and evolve into more of a wheezing noise as breathing becomes more challenging.
Asthma – similar to bronchiolitis. It restricts the airways and makes breathing difficult, causing wheezing and tightness in the chest.
Pneumonia – this is an infection of the lung and can be viral or bacterial. Fever and a cough may be present, as well as difficulty breathing.
Whooping cough – this is a worsening, fast cough. It can result in loss of oxygen for short amounts of time, hence the “whooping” noise as a child regains breath.
Croup – this causes a swelling of the upper airway and voice box, and presents a harsh cough that can sound like barking.

Obstructions, such as a foreign item being lodged in the throat, can cause acute episodes of coughing. Please be aware that if your child clutches at their throat, or starts to go blue around the mouth or fingernails, there may be something caught in their throat and they will need your help to dislodge it.

Kids cold and cough remedies

Acute or prolonged coughing calls for investigation and may require medical treatment. In the cases of coughs associated with a cold or viruses, there are many ways to ease and relieve the symptoms.

If your child is suffering with the symptoms of a cold, take the following steps:

1. Keep them well hydrated. Not only will drinking plenty of fluids ease a sore or dry throat, but it will help to prevent the thickening of mucus which will help to soften the coughs. Give your little one warm (not hot) fluids, such as soup and herbal teas.
2. Allow for plenty of fresh air. Opening a window or getting some time outdoors can work wonders if it’s possible. Breathing in cool air can reduce swelling in the respiratory tract and make breathing much easier.
3. Use a humidifier in their room. The presence of water vapour in the air will ease and reduce a cough. If you don’t have access to a humidifier, shut the bathroom door and run a hot shower so that the room fills with steam.

If your child does not find relief within a couple of days, a trip to see a medical professional is a good idea.

For more information see Parenting advice or Kids Health.