Cough in children is probably the most common symptom, which makes parents seek an urgent opinion from a paediatrician.
Cough is principally a protective reflex in humans, which tends to keep the air conducting pathways of the lungs clear of mucus and other secretions. It is normal for children to have cough episodes now and then, especially in early mornings.
Cough in children occurs due to various reasons. It could be from an innocent cold to a florid chest infection. Characteristic of the cough turns out to be an important factor while determining the severity of the respiratory condition a child is infected with.
Sometimes children come up with loud barky cough, which could be a sign of windpipe swelling, which mandates an urgent medical attention. There are times when cough is phlegmy or described as chunky. This could be a state of post viral infection. The dry cough that prevails after a couple of hours of sleeping especially after the night sleep could be due to an ongoing wheeze.
For this, a suitable remedy has to be sought as soon as possible. Whooping cough, which is associated with episodes of coughing fits could be a dangerous sign as it is highly infectious and need immediate medical attention. In today’s era, children with high immunization coverage are rarely present.
Newborns’ cough needs special care. Cough in early days after birth is rare, but if present, needs proper evaluation! A good idea is to immunize parents’ prior delivery of the baby!
The wave of urbanization brings with it the unhealthy baggage of health maladies out of which cough is probably the most irritating symptom. Young children are more prone to the construction/pollution related respiratory problems rather than the older ones. Hence, it would be a wise idea to keep children off these sites.
Parents should note that cough which comes on exertion is also an indirect evidence of wheeze and needs an early attention especially in school age children. I would like to caution, if a child coughs after an exertion, it could be a sign of heart disease, which is usually associated with impaired growth.
In the era of effective immunizations, cough in children is usually caused by respiratory viruses vis a vis in adults. In most situations home remedies for cough are sufficient enough. The only most important symptom that parents should note in a child’s cough is the rate of breathing.
If a cough is associated with fast breathing, identified even by an untrained eye, you must seek medical attention urgently. Cough suppression during fast breathing is very dangerous.
Parents need to know that if a healthy toddler or a young child has sudden coughing fit, it could be an indication of choking of food/or small inhalable objects!
Prolonged cough in a child is associated with failure to gain weight. Parents should evaluate their little one for tuberculosis in the event of probable exposure.
Toddler cough is a special category that needs emphasis. It is usually seen in young children in the early years of schooling. The coughing is occasional and is not associated with failing to thrive. Usually no investigations are needed!
So as a parent what you should do?
Coughs linked with cold, needs medical evaluation and initially if found slightly infectious, can be cured with the home remedy alone in most of the situations. Honey and ginger have been used in various cultures around the world for symptomatic relief of cough. Avoid very acidic foods and encourage plenty of fluids!
Here are some Remedies for your child suffering from Cough which you can try at your home itself –
It is a common practice to prescribe coughs remedies in children for symptomatic relief. However, a medication that suppresses cough takes time and has been proved unsafe for children. One of the most undesirable effects of these medications is that, it can affect the child’s heart.
Cultures around the world have identified cough with certain food stuffs, especially dairy and fresh fruits. It is a household belief in India that diary should be withheld from a child’s diet during respiratory illness. It is affirmed that unless there is any food allergy, dairy and fruit in the child diet could help with an early recovery!
To sum up, cough in children is usually innocent unless proved. It probably wise to treat the cause of cough rather than the cough itself!
The article has been written by Dr Chandrashekhar Karnad who is a senior Consultant Paediatrician with 15 years of experience, trained from India and Australia. His interests include General paediatrics, neonatal care, paediatric intensive care, paediatric infectious diseases and paediatric pulmonology.