Cough

What is a cough?

A cough is a common symptom of illness. A cough helps get infected fluid out of the lungs. Your child may have a dry cough or a wet cough. A wet cough is when your child coughs up mucus.

What causes a cough?

Most coughs are caused by a viral infection of the trachea (windpipe) or bronchi (larger air passages in the lungs).

How can I take care of my child?

  • Medicines to loosen the cough and thin the secretions.
    • Cough drops: Children over 4 years old can usually control coughing by sucking on cough drops or hard candy.
    • Homemade cough syrup: For children 1 to 4 years old, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of corn syrup instead of cough drops.
    • Warm liquids for coughing: Warm liquids such as warm lemonade, warm apple juice, or warm herbal tea usually relax the airway and loosen up the mucus. (Avoid this if your child is less than 4 months old.)
  • Cough-suppressant medicines.
    The cough reflex helps protect the lungs. Use cough-suppressant drugs only for dry coughs that interfere with sleep, going to school, or work. Do not give them to infants less that 1 year old or for wet coughs.
  • Humidifiers in the treatment of cough. Dry air tends to make coughs worse. Use a humidifier.
  • Active and passive smoking. Don't let anyone smoke around your coughing child. The cough could last weeks longer with smoke exposure.

Call your child's doctor right away if:

  • Your child has difficulty breathing AND is not better after you clear the nose.
  • Breathing becomes fast or difficult when not coughing.
  • Your child starts acting very sick.

Call your child's doctor during office hours if:

  • A fever lasts more than 3 days.
  • The cough lasts more than 3 weeks.
  • You have other questions or concerns.

Published by McKesson Clinical Reference Systems
Copyright © 1986-2002 McKesson Health Solutions LLC.
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