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Excessive Coughing in Kids

By Mary Kelly ; Updated June 13, 2017

A cough is a reflex that forces air and secretions from your lungs, helping to keep airways clear. An acute cough, which children most often get when they have a cold, usually lasts two to three weeks. A chronic cough usually lasts longer and can be caused by other factors including asthma, allergies and croup. Treatment for excessive coughing in children is dependent on the cause.

Coughs From Croup

Croup is a swelling around the vocal cords, and is usually the result of a virus. The cough associated with croup is typically a “barky” cough. According to the Nemours Foundation website KidsHealth, children between 3 and 5 years of age have the greatest risk for croup because their airways are small and their windpipes are narrow. Croup is usually worse at night and often lasts about a week. It is often treated at home, but in serious cases, may require hospitalization.

Contagious Cough

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a bacterial infection of the airways. It is extremely contagious and is most severe in infants younger than 1. Whooping cough occurs when the child has uncontrollable coughing without breathing between coughs. The deep breath taken at the end of the spell makes a “whooping” sound. The child may have choking spells, or cough so excessively that he may vomit. According to MedlinePlus, pertussis is less common today due to the vaccines available.

Common Coughs

If your child has a cold, it is common to have a cough as well. Excessive coughing can be triggered at night because sinuses drain down the child’s throat while she is asleep. In the daytime, coughing triggers can be irritants in the home, such as pets or smoke. If the child is overactive, this can cause excessive coughing spells. At times, the child may cough so hard that she will vomit. This is not necessarily a cause for concern unless the vomiting continues.

When to Call the Doctor

Excessive coughing in children can be treated at home in many cases. A doctor should be called, however, if your child has trouble breathing, demonstrates breathing that is quicker than normal or has a bluish color to lips or skin. A child with a high fever, or a child who is younger than 3 months of age who has any fever at all, should be seen by a doctor. Whooping cough in infants 3-months-old or younger or coughing up blood is another warning sign that medical care is needed. Always call your doctor if the cough has lasted more than three weeks.

Treatment at Home

According to KidsHealth, some things you can do at home to help relieve your child’s discomfort include using a cool-mist humidifier in the bedroom. For croup, make a “steam” room in the bathroom by running hot water in the shower, then sit with your child for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve cool drinks such as juice or water to help soothe a sore throat from excessive coughing.

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