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Children's Health

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Children's Cough: Causes and Treatments

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A child's little body can make a big sound when wracked with cough. To help your child cope with a cough, know the common causes and treatments you can try at home.

Children and Cough: Common Causes and Treatments

A cough is usually a sign your child's body is trying to rid itself of an irritant, from mucus to a foreign object. Common causes of cough include:

  • Infection.Colds, flu, and croup can all lead to a lingering cough for kids. Colds tend to cause a mild to moderate hacking cough; the flu a sometimes severe, dry cough; and croup has a "barking" cough with noisy breathing.
  • Acid reflux. Symptoms in children may include coughing, frequent vomiting/spitting up, a bad taste in the mouth, and heartburn. Treatment for reflux depends on a child's age, health, and other issues. Try these three tips: Remove trigger foods from their diet (often chocolate, peppermint, fried, spicy, fatty foods, and carbonated drinks). Eat at least two hours before bedtime. And eat smaller meals. See your doctor if you are concerned about your child's acid reflux.
  • Asthmacan be tough to diagnose, because symptoms vary from child to child. But a wheezing cough, which may get worse at night, is one of many asthma symptoms. The other may be a cough that appears with increased physical activity or during play. Treatment for asthma depends on what's causing it, and may include avoiding triggers like pollution, smoke, or perfumes. See your doctor if you think your child has asthma symptoms.
  • Allergies/Sinusitis can cause a lingering cough, as well as an itchy throat, runny nose, watery eyes, sore throat, or rash. Talk to your child's doctor about allergy tests to find out which allergens cause the problem, and ask for advice on how to avoid that allergen. Allergens can include food, pollen, pet dander, and dust. Your doctor may also recommend allergymedication or allergy shots.
  • Whooping cough, also called pertussis, is characterized by back-to-back coughs, followed by an inhale that has a "whooping" sound. Other symptoms may include runny nose, sneezing, and low fever. Whooping cough is contagious, but easy to prevent with a vaccine. Whooping cough is treated with antibiotics.
  • Other reasons children cough: A child may also cough out of habit after having been sick with a cough; after inhaling a foreign body like food or a small toy; or after exposure to irritants like pollution from cigarettes or fireplace smoke.

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