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Post-Viral Cough in Children

By Shannon Cotton ; Updated August 14, 2017

Post viral cough is a cough that continues even after a child has otherwise recovered from a viral illness. Post viral cough can follow illnesses such as the common cold or influenza, and it can linger for weeks because of irritation in the airway. Coughing may be annoying for children and their parents, but it is necessary to keep the airway clean and protected. You can take steps to make your child feel better while you wait for post viral cough to pass.


Post viral cough can last 2 to 3 weeks after a child recovers from a viral illness. The child may occasionally cough up mucus. The cough may be worse at night or when the child is lying down, which can cause sleep difficulty and irritability.


Post viral cough typically clears up within 2 to 3 weeks without treatment. If your child is uncomfortable, talk to his doctor about cough medications. The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend the use of over-the-counter cough medicine in children younger than 6 years of age, and cough medicine is only recommended for children over 6 if they have a severe cough that interferes with sleeping or daily activities. Cough drops may provide relief for older children, but do not give them to children under 6, recommends Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Home Remedies

Some evidence suggests that honey can reduce coughing and help children sleep better at night, according to Seattle Children’s Hospital. Evidence suggests children under 5 can benefit from 1/2 tsp. of honey at bedtime, children from 6 to 11 can benefit from 1 tsp. and children over 11 can benefit from 2 tsp. Because of the risk of infant botulism, this remedy should not be used in children under one year of age, and you should talk to your doctor before you give honey to a child under 2 years of age. Warm fluids can also be soothing. A humidifier may bring your child relief at night, but choose the cool mist variety to avoid burns.


Asthma and other disorders can sometimes cause a persistent cough in children. While it is common for children to cough for 2 to 3 weeks after a having a virus, talk to your child’s doctor if it seems that he frequently has a lingering cough.


Call for emergency medical help if your child has severe breathing problems, passes out while coughing or has blue lips even when he is not coughing, warns Seattle Children’s Hospital. If your child has difficulty breathing, blue lips when coughing, fever over 104 degrees Fahrenheit or if he seems very sick or coughs up blood, call his doctor right away. If the cough lasts longer than 3 weeks or if your child has persistent chest pain when not coughing, coughs continuously or develops other symptoms that concern you, contact his doctor. Always check with a doctor if your baby is under 3 months old and shows signs of illness.

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