Cold-Related Coughing vs. Asthma Coughing in Children


Child in bed with an inhaler for his asthma

Coughing is a symptom of many different health conditions, so how are parents supposed to know exactly what is causing a child’s persistent cough?

While asthma in children is a common cause of ER visits and hospitalizations, colds can typically be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and natural remedies. Yet both of these conditions result in significant discomfort, missed days of school, and shared symptoms like coughing. The coughs may sound alike, but they have different accompanying symptoms.

Here is some information about asthma in children, wheezing with cold viruses, and how to tell the difference between coughs caused by asthma and colds.

How Do I Know If My Child Has Asthma?

Asthma is a concerning condition when it comes to children because it can get in the way of daily and athletic activities and even be life-threatening if not kept under control. Asthma coughing typically sounds like frequent, intermittent coughs and like a whistling or wheezing sound during exhalations. Children who have asthma may cough in their sleep, become very emotional or stressed out while coughing, or complain of a funny feeling in the chest.

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Asthma Symptoms

Wheezing is certainly one of the most common asthma symptoms, but others exist as well. Chest tightness, breathing difficulties, and poor endurance during exercise are also asthma symptoms in children. These symptoms tend to get worse when the child is physically exerted or at night.

Dry Cough with Cold and Wheezing with Cold

One common sickness symptom among children is a dry cough with cold. A dry cough means that mucous is not coming up with the coughs, but it can still be severe and frequent. Coughs that are part of a cold may linger for a couple weeks after all of the other cold symptoms have gone away.

Wheezing with cold is also common among children who have upper respiratory infections. This type of whistling sound occurs when the airways are swollen or if there is a lot of mucous trapped in the airways. If wheezing commonly occurs when a cold exists, it could be a sign that asthma is present as well.

Asthma and Colds

Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the bronchial tubes, while colds are typically caused by a virus and affect the nose and throat. Yet children who suffer from asthma can still catch the common cold, an unfortunate combination that may exacerbate the symptoms of both conditions. Colds and the flu can be a trigger for asthma attacks, so it is important for children with asthma to continue on with their prescribed asthma medications even while taking cold medicine. Children with asthma may also experience more frequent colds than their peers, and these colds tend to settle in the chest.

Asthma in children may require short-acting bronchodilators like albuterol, inhaled steroids, or leukotriene modifiers to serve as anti-inflammatory agents. Meanwhile, children’s wheezing with cold may subside with PediaCare’s Cough and Runny Nose or Cough and Congestion formulas. Lozenges and warm foods and beverages may also soothe an irritated throat caused by prolonged coughing.

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