Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course.
What to Do
- If your child develops a "barky" or "croupy" cough, sit in a steamy bathroom together for about 20 minutes.
- Offer plenty of fluids (breast milk or formula for babies; cool water and juice for older kids). Avoid carbonated or citrus drinks that may irritate a raw throat.
- Run a cool-mist humidifier in your child's bedroom.
- Use saline (saltwater) nose drops to relieve congestion.
- Never give cough drops (a choking hazard) to young kids or cough or cold medicine to kids under 2 years of age (consult a doctor first for older kids).
Seek Medical Care
If Your Child:
- has severe cough spasms or attacks, wheezing, or stridor (an almost-musical sound when inhaling)
- has a cough that lasts 3 weeks, gets worse, happens the same time every year, or seems caused by something specific (such as pollen, dust, pets, etc.)
- has a persistent fever
- is younger than 3 months old and has fever with the cough
- is breathing fast or working hard to breathe
- has a blue or dusky color in the lips, face, or tongue during or after coughing
- Follow the doctor's treatment plan if your child has asthma or allergies.
- Avoid anyone who smokes or has a cold.
- Make sure your child gets the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine or combination booster (Tdap) on time.
- Wash hands well and often.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: April 2014
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|Immunization Action Coalition This organization is a source of childhood, adolescent, and adult immunization information as well as hepatitis B educational materials.|
|CDC: Pre-teen and Teen Vaccines CDC site provides materials in English and Spanish for parents, teens, pre-teens, and health care providers about vaccines and the diseases they prevent.|
|CDC: Flu (Influenza) The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.|
|CDC: Pertussis (Whooping Cough) Visit the CDC's whooping cough (pertussis) homepage to learn about disease outbreaks, treatments, new vaccines, and more.|
|Why Is Hand Washing So Important? Did you know that proper hand washing is the best way to keep from getting sick? Here's how to teach this all-important habit to your kids.|
|Asthma Center Asthma keeps more kids home from school than any other chronic illness. Learn how to help your child manage the condition, stay healthy, and stay in school.|
|Is It a Cold or the Flu? Your child is sent home from school with a sore throat, cough, and high fever - could it be the flu that's been going around? Or is it just a common cold? Find out here!|
|Common Cold With kids getting up to eight colds a year, this contagious viral infection is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.|
|Croup Croup is characterized by a loud cough that resembles the barking of a seal and difficulty breathing. Most cases of croup are caused by viruses, are mild, and can be treated at home.|
|Flu Center Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.|
|Whooping Cough (Pertussis) Pertussis is characterized by severe coughing spells that end in a whooping sound when the person breathes in. It can be prevented with the pertussis vaccine, part of the DTaP immunization.|
|Your Child's Immunizations: Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis Vaccine (DTaP) Find out when and why your child needs to get this vaccine.|
|Coughing Coughs are a frequent symptom of childhood illness, but don't usually signify a serious condition. Learn about different coughs and how to help.|
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2014 The Nemours Foundation/KidsHealth. All rights reserved.