Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Cough - Brief Version
What is a cough?
- A cough helps gets infected fluid out of the lungs.
- A cough can be dry or wet.
What causes a cough?
Most coughs are caused by a viral infection of the trachea
(windpipe) or bronchi (larger air passages in the lungs).
How can I take care of my child?
- Medicines to loosen the cough and thin the secretions.
- Cough drops: Children over 4 years old can usually control
coughing by sucking on cough drops or hard candy.
- Homemade cough syrup: For children less than 4 years old,
use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of corn syrup instead of cough drops.
- Warm liquids for coughing: Warm liquids such as warm
lemonade, warm apple juice, or warm herbal tea usually relax
the airway and loosen up the mucus. (Avoid this if your
child is less than 4 months old.)
- Cough-suppressant medicines.
The cough reflex helps protect the lungs. Use cough-
suppressant drugs only for dry coughs that interfere with
sleep, going to school, or work. Do not give them to infants
less than 1 year old or for wet coughs. Most nonprescription
cough suppressants contain dextromethorphan (DM). Your child
needs the medicine recommended by your physician.
- Humidifiers in the treatment of cough. Dry air tends to make
coughs worse. Use a humidifier.
- Active and passive smoking. Don't let anyone smoke around your
coughing child. The cough could last weeks longer with smoke
Call your child's doctor right away if:
- Your child has difficulty breathing AND is not better after you
clear the nose.
- Breathing becomes fast or difficult when not coughing.
- Your child starts acting very sick.
Call your child's doctor during office hours if:
- A fever lasts more than 3 days.
- The cough lasts more than 3 weeks.
- You have other questions or concerns.
Written by B.D. Schmitt, M.D., author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Copyright 1999 Clinical Reference Systems