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Cough in Children

Coughing is a sudden forcing of air from the lungs. It is a natural reflex to clear the air passages. It can also be a symptom of a disease or medical problem.

Some coughs are dry and hacking. Other coughs are deeper, even painful at times. They may bring mucus up out of the airways and can make it easier to breathe.

Coughing often occurs when the airways are irritated. It can be caused by:

  • a cold or flu
  • sinus infection
  • bronchitis
  • croup
  • allergies
  • heartburn, also called reflux, or
  • asthma

Any cough that lasts 3 weeks or more is chronic. One common cause of a chronic cough is exposure to things that irritate the airway, such as smoke or pollen.

Many different medicines for coughs are available without a prescription. Do not give cough medicines to children under age 4 unless your child's healthcare provider has told you to. Children under 6 years of age should not be given cough drops or hard candies to relieve a sore throat or cough.

Other things that can help when your child has a cough are:

  • Drinking a lot of water to help loosen and bring up mucus.
  • Drinking warm liquids such as soup or hot apple juice.
  • Using a cool-mist humidifier, especially in the bedroom, and
  • Staying away from anyone who is smoking.
  • You can also try running hot water in the shower or bathtub to steam up the bathroom. Have your child sit in there for 10 to 15 minutes if coughing hard or having trouble breathing.

Disclaimer: This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information provided is intended to be informative and educational and is not a replacement for professional medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.

HIA File resp3807.htm Release 13/2010

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