My Toddler Has Had a Persistent Cough & Runny Nose for Months

You always try keeping your toddler healthy, but illnesses are bound to happen — particularly if your toddler is in daycare. Chronic bronchitis or sinusitis are the likely culprits, so always consult your toddler's pediatrician if your toddler has a cough and runny nose that last more than a week or two 2. Proper diagnosis and treatment are necessary for a full recovery.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.


Bronchitis is known for a productive cough, but your toddler probably felt sick from the common cold a few months before the persistent cough and runny nose became present 2. If your toddler has chronic bronchitis, the majority of your child’s cold symptoms disappeared, but the cough continues and produces large amounts of mucus 2. The cough is worse in the mornings and in cold damp environments, the American Lung Association notes. Chronic bronchitis makes recovering from colds take longer, so coughing and a runny nose last longer than usual; it can take your toddler several months to recover from chronic bronchitis 2. Chronic sinusitis also causes a cough and a runny nose that can last more than three months. Other symptoms of sinusitis include postnasal drip, fatigue and a fever. Like chronic bronchitis, your toddler probably had a respiratory illness that improved and then got worse 2.


For most toddlers, bronchitis symptoms only last a week or two and are caused by bacteria or a virus 2. Secondhand smoke is a likely cause of your toddler’s chronic bronchitis; indeed, the TeensHealth website reports, tobacco smoke is behind more than 80 percent of chronic bronchitis cases 2. A respiratory infection can also lead to chronic bronchitis, but the risk of this happening is higher if someone in the household smokes around your child 2. Air pollution or other chemicals in the environment can also irritate the tissues lining the bronchial tubes and result in bronchitis 2. Sinusitis, meanwhile, is caused by inflammation of the sinuses from a virus, bacteria or fungus. A respiratory infection, allergies or deviated septum can make your toddler susceptible to chronic sinusitis.


Waiting to seek treatment if your toddler has chronic bronchitis increases your child’s risk of serious respiratory illnesses or heart failure 2. Have your toddler drink plenty of fluids and rest as frequently as possible. Doctors often prescribe a bronchodilator to open the bronchial tubes. The bronchodilator makes it easier for air to pass in and out of the airways and reduce irritation. Stop smoking around your toddler or smoke outdoors while someone watches your child. If your toddler has sinusitis, turn your shower to the hottest setting and close the bathroom door so the room fills with steam. Sit in the steam-filled room for 15 minutes with your toddler several times per day. Antibiotics are needed if the infection is bacterial; anti-fungal medication will be needed if the infection is from a fungus.


As with treatment of chronic bronchitis, prevent long-term bronchitis by not smoking around your toddler 2. Reducing the number of respiratory infections your toddler has by encouraging frequent hand-washing in your household further reduces risk of bronchitis and sinusitis 2. If your toddler is in daycare, discuss enforcing hand-washing rules among the daycare staff, parents and other children; this can easily be done with pamphlets. If a deviated septum is the cause or your toddler's sinuses need to be thoroughly cleansed, surgery is sometimes necessary for sinusitis. An annual influenza vaccination also reduces your child’s risk of bronchitis and sinusitis 2.