What Parents Need to Know About Coughing


Young Boy Yawning From his Bed Surrounded by Cold Medicine

One of the most common symptoms of a respiratory infection is coughing, which occurs when the inner lining of the windpipe is irritated. This is a natural reflex to remove excess mucous from the body and help air to flow easier for breathing. However, coughs make children very uncomfortable and there are several different coughs that parents should become familiar with.

This article aims to educate parents about the causes of coughing in infants and toddlers, various types of coughs, and the damage coughing can do to young and growing bodies.

Causes of Coughs in Children

When an infant or toddler begins coughing, it is a sign that the body is trying to rid itself of some type of irritant. Infections due to the common cold are one major cause of coughs, and these coughs can be mild or moderate.

Coughing symptoms can become worse when children lie in bed because mucous can collect in the back of the throat and be swallowed. This can lead to upset stomach or even vomiting in children. Other causes of coughs can be the flu, acid reflux, asthma, allergies, sinusitis, pollution, and second-hand smoke.

Types of Coughs in Children

Upper respiratory tract infections often cause dry, hacking coughs. These types of coughs often get worse after a child goes to bed. They can go away on their own, or they could be a sign that a more serious condition is forming, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. Wet coughs result from mucous secretions in the windpipe and lungs. Infections and asthma often cause wet coughs in children.

Croup coughs are also described as “barking” coughs and are associated with noisy breathing. These coughs result from a swollen windpipe following a viral infection. The swollen vocal chords can cause high pitched sounds while inhaling as well. Whopping cough is a serious condition that involves prolonged, fast-paced, and severe coughing fits that usually take place at night. Parents should listen for a series of a dozen or so short and rapid coughs followed by a deep “whooping” sound on the inhale.

Short-Term and Long-Term Damage of Coughing

Certain types of coughs can create a temporary oxygen shortage and even make children’s skin turn bluish in color. This is often most noticeable around the mouth, lips, and fingernails. Parents should call 911 and seek immediate medical attention if a coughing child loses consciousness, coughs up blood, or has a seizure with the coughing fit.

Not only does coughing exhaust the body, but chronic coughing can cause damage over time. For example, bodily tissues and organs may not receive the oxygen they need if air flow is restricted. In rare and severe cases, violent coughing can lead to rib fracture and rupture of the diaphragm.

To gently and effectively fight tough coughs, PediaCare offers various combinations of medication to target specific symptoms. These include Cough & Congestion for ages 4-11, Cough & Sore Throat Plus Acetaminophen for ages 4-11, and Cough & Runny Nose Plus Acetaminophen for ages 6-11. Multi-symptom OTC medications also ease coughs when they are combined with several other cold symptoms. It may also help to use a cool-mist humidifier in a child’s bedroom while suffering from a cough or draw a warm shower or bath for the child. Physical activity should also be limited while a child has a cough.


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