Clinical Reference Systems: Pediatric Advisor 10.0
Cough (for Teenagers)
- The cough reflex expels air and secretions from the lungs
with a sudden explosive noise.
- The cough can be dry and hacking or wet and productive.
- A coughing spasm is more than 5 minutes of continuous
Most coughs are caused by a viral infection of the trachea
(windpipe) or bronchi (larger air passages in the lungs).
These infections are called tracheitis and bronchitis,
respectively. Most people get a cough infection a couple of
times a year as part of a cold. Keep in mind that coughing
clears the lungs and protects them from pneumonia.
Bronchitis isn't serious.
Usually bronchitis causes a dry tickly cough that lasts 2 to
3 weeks. Sometimes the cough becomes loose (wet) for a few
days, and you cough up a lot of phlegm (mucus). This is
usually a sign that the end of the illness is near.
- Medicines to loosen the cough and thin the secretions
- Cough drops: Most coughs can be controlled by
sucking on cough drops or hard candy freely. Any
brand will do. These help coat the irritated throat.
- Warm liquids for coughing spasms: Warm liquids
usually relax the airway and loosen up the mucus.
Start with warm lemonade, warm apple juice, or warm
- Cough-suppressant medicines
Cough-suppressant drugs reduce the cough reflex.
However, the cough reflex helps protect the lungs. Use
cough-suppressant drugs only for dry coughs that
interfere with sleep, school attendance, or work. They
also help people who have chest pain from coughing
Most nonprescription cough suppressants contain
dextromethorphan (DM). You need the medicine
recommended by your physician.
You may want to use cough drops during the day and DM at
bedtime and during the night. DM is also available as a
cough lozenge and as a long-acting liquid (effective for
- Humidifiers in the treatment of cough
Dry air tends to make coughs worse. Dry coughs can be
loosened up by drinking extra water and by using a
humidifier in your bedroom.
You will find that gym and exercise trigger coughing
spasms when you have bronchitis. If so, you should
avoid such physical activity temporarily.
- Active and passive smoking
Don't be around anyone who smokes. Also avoid smoking
since a cough may last weeks longer than it would
- Common mistakes in treating cough
Antihistamines, decongestants, and antipyretics are
found in many cough syrups. There is no proof that
these ingredients will help your cough, and the
antihistamines may make you sleepy. Expectorants are of
unproven value but harmless. Stay with the simple
remedies mentioned above or use dextromethorphan (DM).
Milk does not need to be eliminated from the diet.
Restricting it improves the cough only if you are
allergic to milk.
CALL YOUR PHYSICIAN IMMEDIATELY IF:
- Breathing becomes fast or labored (when you are not
CALL YOUR PHYSICIAN DURING OFFICE HOURS IF:
- A fever (over 100 degrees F, or 37.8 degrees C) lasts
more than 3 days.
- The cough lasts more than 3 weeks.
- You have other concerns or questions.