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My Child Has Had a Cough for Three Weeks

By Melissa McNamara ; Updated August 14, 2017

You bleach your house to kill germs, have your child take vitamins and keep up-to-date on all immunizations, but even after all these precautions your child still manages to get sick. Bronchitis and sinusitis are usually the culprits of a three-week cough. Always consult with your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Bronchitis and sinusitis usually start as a common cold with a cough, low-grade fever, runny nose, nasal congestion, headache and watery eyes. As a cold develops into bronchitis, your child will have wheezing, a sore throat, body aches, chills and malaise that usually last up to two weeks, but can last up to four weeks. A bronchitis cough has a junky sound that produces mucus. Coughing can result in chest pain with bronchitis. Sinusitis is usually the result of a cold that lasts more than 10 days. The cough produced by sinusitis is dry and non-productive. Your child will have green nasal discharge and pain around the eyes. Young children often have a fever. If there is no cough, your child probably does not have sinusitis.


A cold is commonly caused by a rhinovirus. If a cold progresses into bronchitis, the airways become inflamed and mucus production increases which worsens cough symptoms. Environmental and household irritants, as well as bacteria can cause bronchitis, but the cold virus is most common. Inflammation of one or more of the sinuses that drain into the nose causes sinusitis. The inflamed nasal passages block mucus from draining, which creates warm and moist environment that is perfect for the growth of viral, bacterial and fungal infections. Your child coughs from sinusitis because mucus drops into the upper chest.


The common cold, bronchitis and sinusitis rarely need treatment and will typically disappear within a month. Cough and cold medication are not approved for children younger than 4 years old. Always consult with your doctor before giving any over-the-counter medication to a child younger than 6 years of age. Antibiotics will only help bronchitis or sinusitis if bacteria are the cause of the infection, which is rarely the case. Allow your child to cough during the day to keep mucus from setting in the lungs and only give a cough suppressant if coughing interferes with your child’s sleep. If your child’s doctor suspects sinusitis, a decongestant may be prescribed to decrease mucus and a cortisone nasal spray will be given to reduce swelling of the nasal passages. Having your child sit in a steamy bathroom several times per day for 10 minutes can help your child cough up mucus.


The best way to prevent a lingering cough is to avoid respiratory infections. Teach your child and other family members to wash their hands frequently and use a tissue to cough and sneeze. Avoid bringing your children around people who appear sick. Do not allow family members to share eating utensils with friends or family since a virus can be contagious before symptoms show. Ensure that all your family members receive their yearly flu vaccination.

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