Coughs in kids

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Coughs are one of the most frequent symptoms of childhood illness. Cough is generally a response to some irritating condition such as inflammation or the presence of mucus in the respiratory tract. In fact, coughing is a healthy and important reflex that helps clear the airways in the throat and chest.

Here's some guidance on different types of coughs and the kinds of conditions they're typically associated with.

"Barky" Cough
Barky coughs are usually caused by an inflammation or swelling in the upper part of the airway. Most often barky coughs are caused by croup, an inflammation of the larynx (voice box) and trachea (windpipe).

Croup can be brought on by allergies, change in temperature at night or, most commonly, a viral upper respiratory infection. When a young child's airway becomes inflamed, it may swell near, or just below, the vocal cords, making it harder to breathe. Children younger than 3 years of age tend to get croup because their windpipes are narrow.

Croup can come on suddenly, and in the middle of the night, when your child is at rest. Often it's accompanied by stridor, a noisy, harsh breathing (some doctors describe it as a coarse, musical sound) that occurs when a child inhales (breathes in).

"Whooping" Cough
Whooping cough is another name used to refer to the illness pertussis, an infection of the respiratory tract that's caused by a type of bacteria called bordetella pertussis. The illness is marked by severe coughing spells that end in a "whooping" sound when a child breathes in. Other symptoms of pertussis include a runny nose, sneezing, mild cough, and a low-grade fever.

Cough With Wheezing
When coughing is accompanied by a wheezing sound as your child exhales, it may be a sign that your child's lower airway is inflamed. There is also the possibility, particularly in a younger child, that the lower airway is being blocked by a foreign object or mucus from a respiratory infection.

Nighttime Cough
Lots of coughs get worse at night because the congestion in a child's nose and sinuses drains down the throat and causes irritation while the child lies in bed. Asthma can also trigger nighttime coughs because the airways tend to be more sensitive and become more irritable at night.

Daytime Cough
Allergies, asthma, colds, and other respiratory infections are the usual culprits of daytime coughs. Cold air or activity can make these coughs worse, and they often subside at night or when the child is resting. It's a good idea to make sure that nothing in your house - like air freshener, pets, or smoke (especially tobacco smoke) - is making your child cough.

Cough With a Fever
If your child has a cough, mild fever, and runny nose, chances are that he or she has a common cold. But coughs with a fever of 39 degrees Celsius or higher can mean pneumonia, particularly if your child is listless and breathing fast. In this case, call your child's doctor immediately.

Cough With Vomiting
Children often cough so much that it triggers their gag reflex, making them throw up. Usually, this is not cause for alarm unless the vomiting persists. Also, if your child has a cough with a cold or an asthma flare-up, he or she may throw up if lots of mucus drains into the stomach and causes nausea.

Persistent Cough
Coughs caused by colds can last weeks, especially if your child has one cold right after another. Asthma, allergies, or a chronic infection in the sinuses or breathing passages might also be responsible for these persistent coughs. If the cough lasts for 3 weeks, notify your child's doctor.

Home remedies
Try running a cool-mist vaporizer or humidifier, and encourage your child to drink more fluids, especially water. Both methods help keep the mucus in the nose and chest looser and make it easier for her to move mucus up and out of the lungs. Hard candy or lozenges are good for coughs in children older than 4 (younger children may choke on them). You can also try warm liquids or tea with honey and lemon to a child above age of 1. There's no evidence to support the belief that milk products increase mucus production, so if your sick child wants a glass of milk, you needn't say no.

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