Night Coughing in Toddlers

The last thing any parent wants for her toddler is trouble sleeping. Coughing at night will not only make your toddler miserable, but it will keep you both awake for most of the night. Night coughing in your toddler may be a sign that your child has the croup, asthma, bronchitis or sinusitis 4. Most of these causes of night coughing can be treated at home, but you should check with your pediatrician to make sure there is not another underlying cause that may need attention if the coughing continues for more than a couple of days.

Is This an Emergency?

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


The croup is a harsh and repetitive cough similar to the noise of a barking seal, and often comes in bursts at night. This cough is a result of an inflammation of the vocal cords and windpipe. This cough is normally seen in children younger than age 5, because they have small airways. Other symptoms of the croup include difficulty swallowing, high-pitched breathing sounds, irritability and fever of 103.5 or higher. According to, this cough is usually not serious and can be treated at home by using a humidifier in the child's room at night and making sure he drinks plenty of fluids 234. Sometimes your doctor will prescribe medication to help with the croup.


If your child has asthma, her airways narrow and swell, producing extra mucus and difficulty in breathing. Symptoms range from child to child and may be mild or severe. Some children have symptoms primarily at night or during exercise, while others have symptoms all the time. The most common signs are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. According to, asthma can be due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors 234. Asthma triggers are different for each person. Treatment usually involves learning to recognize triggers and may involve using daily asthma medication if symptoms are severe. A doctor should be consulted.


Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of your child's bronchial tubes 4. This normally develops from a cold or respiratory infection. Symptoms include:

  • coughing
  • production of clear
  • white
  • yellowish or green mucus
  • fatigue
  • chest discomfort

Acute bronchitis usually improves within a few days, although your child's coughing may last for weeks 4. Your doctor may recommend a cough suppressant to help him rest. Treatment includes rest, drinking fluids and breathing warm, moist air. If this treatment does not help, your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic.


Sinusitis causes the cavities around the nasal passages to become swollen and inflamed. This results in the build up of mucus, which interferes with drainage. Sinusitis may be caused by an infection but may also be caused by nasal polyps or a deviated nasal septum. Symptoms of sinusitis include coughing, which may be worse at night, drainage, congestion and tenderness around eyes. Sinusitis normally will heal on its own, but if your toddler's symptoms last more than five days, you should see your doctor.


You should always consult with your child's doctor if her symptoms last for more than a few days. Most night coughing is not life threatening, but it is important for your doctor to make sure there is not an underlying medical condition that needs to be treated.