Cough in children
What is cough?
Children cough more often. Cough is a protective reflex of the body in order to get rid of inhaled particles (e.g. smoke, gas, food residues) as well as the mucus and the secretion that accumulates in the airways. Cough becomes a symptom of a disease, especially if it is caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria or fungi. In most cases, such a cough is caused by an acute upper respiratory infection. In some cases, external pressure on the trachea can cause a cough.
What cough does my child have??
First, pay attention to what your child’s cough sounds like. One differentiates:
- dry cough (irritable cough, unproductive cough)
- barking cough
- rattling, wet cough (productive cough)
- painful cough
Depending on the type of cough, certain conclusions can be drawn as to the possible cause:
- A dry cough (i.e. cough without expectoration) occurs especially at the beginning of a cold. Dry cough also occurs with bronchitis, asthma or a foreign body in the airways.
- The barking, rough cough in toddlers tends to indicate pseudo-croup (especially if it occurs at night).
- A damp, rattling cough means that there is a lot of secretions in the airways, for example due to a cold (later stage), bronchitis or pneumonia. Coughing up this secretion is very important. Otherwise, it can accumulate and restrict breathing. Therefore, you should not use a cough suppressant for a damp, rattling cough.
- If the child has pain in the lungs or abdominal pain, this may be a sign of pneumonia with the involvement of the lower parts of the lungs.
How long does the cough last??
In most cases, cough lasts only a few days and then subsides. If the upper respiratory tract is infected with viruses, it can take several weeks for the cough to go away.
Cough that persists for more than eight weeks is called chronic. For example, it can be caused by asthmatic diseases, chronic bronchitis, chronic inflammation of the sinuses, pneumonia or whooping cough. Inhaling air pollutants such as tobacco smoke can also cause chronic cough.
In rare cases, a heart defect can lead to a chronic irritable cough.
What can you do about the cough??
In principle, cough is a sign that the respiratory tract is irritated by mucus, pathogens or other foreign substances. The body wants to send them outside by coughing. You can support the process in your child with the following measures:
- Your child should drink a lot (e.g. warm water, tea) to keep the airways moist.
- Hang up damp towels in the room or put up the drying rack with damp laundry to moisten the room air. Electric humidifiers are less recommended because they can also spread pathogens.
- Herbal expectorant extracts (e.g. ivy-based) can make coughing up easier. But be careful with preparations with peppermint, menthol, camphor or eucalyptus: their essential oils can cause breathing difficulties and even suffocation attacks in children under three years of age, since they irritate the respiratory tract and stimulate the formation of mucus. Your doctor or pharmacist will advise you on the right preparation for your child.
- Anti-cough syrups (for dry cough) can and should only be prescribed by the doctor. Although these juices suppress the urge to cough, they prevent the bronchial tubes from being cleaned and can sometimes suppress the breath drive.
If your child coughs very heavily and shows loud breathing noises (stridor), you must immediately consult a pediatrician or clinic. Also keep in mind that croup (pseudo croup) can be dangerous because it can cause shortness of breath.
A sudden and sudden strong cough in young children may indicate that your child has swallowed a foreign body. Take the child to the doctor or clinic immediately!
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