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First Aid & Emergencies

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Coughs

Call 911 if your child:

  • Is unconscious or not breathing
  • Is gasping for breath
  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing very fast when not coughing
  • Has severe coughing attacks or continuous coughing
  • Can't cry or talk because of breathing trouble
  • Grunts when breathing
  • Has blue lips
  • May have a small object caught in her throat
  • Is breathing very fast (this is also a symptom of fever)
  • Looks very sick

  • Is unconscious or not breathing
  • Is gasping for breath
  • Has trouble breathing or is breathing very fast when not coughing
  • Has severe coughing attacks or continuous coughing
  • Can't cry or talk because of breathing trouble
  • Grunts when breathing
  • Has blue lips
  • May have a small object caught in her throat
  • Is breathing very fast (this is also a symptom of fever)
  • Looks very sick

Coughs in young children can be due to a number of illnesses. Most often, a cough gets better on its own and doesn't need to be a cause for concern.

Call Doctor If Your Child:

  • Is younger than 1 year old and still has trouble breathing after you cleaned out her nose
  • May have a lung infection or a reactive airways disease episode
  • Is wheezing or making a high-pitched whistle sound when breathing out or in
  • Can't take a deep breath because of chest pain or coughed-up blood
  • Has a fever that lasts longer than 72 hours

1. Prevent Dehydration

  • Give babies plenty of breast milk or formula.
  • Give older children water or juice mixed with water.

2. Relieve Congestion

  • Thin mucus in a stuffy nose with saline nose drops.
  • Remove mucus from a baby's nose with a suction bulb.
  • Use a humidifier in your child's room or take your child into the bathroom with a steamy shower running.

3. Ease Breathing

  • Use a cool-mist humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Sit in the bathroom with a hot shower running and have your child breathe in the steam.

4. Make the Child Comfortable

  • Let the child rest.
  • Avoid irritants, such as cigarette smoke.
  • Don't give cough medicine to a child under age 4 unless your pediatrician suggests it.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 15, 2015

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