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Constant Coughing Despite Cough Medicine in Children

By Genevieve Van Wyden ; Updated August 14, 2017

Cough is the body’s response to the presence of irritants in the lungs. When your child gets something in his lungs, he needs to cough to rid his body of the substance. If you have given him an over-the-counter cough medication with no relief, he may have another condition that the medication is not going to target. Look at his symptoms and discuss your concerns with your doctor.

Chronic Coughing

Your child can begin coughing because of minor illnesses, mucus in the airways, respiratory allergies or food particles that have been inhaled into the lungs. If your child’s cough is coupled with a runny nose, she may have sinusitis. The runny nose and coughing usually last for 10 days or more with no improvement. Because mucus drains down the back of her throat, her cough reflex is triggered. A cough with no other signs of illness, such as fever, runny nose or lethargy can indicate that your child picked up an item, put it into her mouth and swallowed it.

Less Serious Causes

A cold can cause your child’s body to produce excess mucus, which drips down the back of her throat; the resulting irritation is expressed with a chronic cough. Seasonal allergies can have the same effect, leading to post-nasal drip. If your child is exposed to and develops croup, she develops a cough that sounds like the bark of a seal. While the coughing is scary, the illness, caused by the parainfluenza virus, is not very serious, writes the HealthGuidance website. This cough is usually worse at night. If your child has allergies or asthma, she can begin coughing when his symptoms are exacerbated by allergens such as dust, pollen or animal dander. What looks like a chronic cold is actually allergies, with a runny or stuffy nose, post-nasal drip and coughing. Asthma symptoms can contribute to chronic coughing. Some of these symptoms include constricted airways, wheezing and chest congestion. If your child doesn’t have allergy-induced asthma but begins coughing after exercise, she may have exercise-induced asthma.

Serious Causes

Whooping cough, or pertussis, can cause potentially serious illness in your child. If your child has not been immunized against whooping cough, she can develop a serious illness. She makes a “whooping” sound as she tries to inhale between bouts of coughing. The coughing is so severe that, at times, she vomits. Respiratory syncytial virus causes serious illness in very young and premature babies. In older children, RSV infection resembles a cold. In very young children, RSV is more of a threat; the condition can become bronchitis or pneumonia, states the HealthGuidance website. At first, RSV looks like a cold, but the child rapidly gets worse and has problems breathing. Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs, first begins as a common cold. Your child does not improve she develops a fever, body aches, chills, problems breathing and a constant cough. If your child has inherited cystic fibrosis, she has a chronic cough along with a thick green or yellow mucus. If you or your partner are carriers for CF, have your child tested if she has a chronic cough, greasy stools and salty-tasting skin or she does not gain weight.

Giving Cough Medication

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages parents from giving their young children an over-the-counter cough suppressant, cough expectorant, antihistamine or decongestant. Children under the age of 3 should have a prescription from the doctor to take these medications. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave doctors a warning that children younger than 2 years should never be given a dose of cough medicine unless the parents have been told by the doctor to do so. These medications are now under review for their safety for children younger than 6 years of age. If you do have to give your child an over-the counter cough preparation, read the packaging and ensure that the medication is appropriate for your child. Use the medication cup and measure dosages exactly.

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