Coughing in Children
Cough in babies and children
Your kids grow up fast - but one thing that never changes is your desire to look after them. If your child is suffering from a cough, you’ll want to do whatever you can to make them better.
Children often cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat. If your child is feeding, drinking, eating and breathing normally and there's no wheezing, a cough isn't usually anything to worry about. Although it's upsetting to hear your child cough, coughing helps clear away phlegm from the chest or mucus from the back of the throat.
Causes of Coughing in Babies and Children
- Colds: It’s common for babies and young children to get a cold as they are still building up their immunity to viruses.
- Bronchiolitis: This is a viral infection affecting about one in three children in their first year. It’s most common in those aged three to six months. Bronchiolitis causes airways to become inflamed, making it harder to breathe. It’s caused by the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Symptoms are similar to a cold but also include a fever, dry and persistent cough, wheezing and difficulty in feeding. If these symptoms become severe, you should contact a medical professional.
- Hay fever: This is an allergic reaction to pollen and can cause a cough. Other symptoms of hay fever include sneezing, runny nose, itchy eyes and throat, loss of smell, headache, earache and tiredness.
- Whooping cough: This causes intense coughing and a ‘whoop’ sound as babies and children take a sharp intake of breath between coughs. At the start it may appear like a cold, but intense coughing starts a week or so later, becoming more common at night. This can cause a baby’s face to become very red and bleeding under the skin or in their eyes. Symptoms in older children tend to be less serious, but can still be unpleasant and frustrating.
- Croup: Babies with croup have a barking cough that sounds a little like a seal and a rasping sound when they breathe in. This condition starts with similar symptoms to a cold and develops after a few days. It’s often worse at night.
- Asthma: A child or baby whose cough is accompanied by wheezing, breathing difficulties and a tight chest could be suffering from asthma.
Types of Coughs in Babies & Children
Parents don’t need to become medical experts – GPs are on hand to help with anything that isn’t clear, but these terms below may be worth knowing if you need to help describe your baby’s cough to a GP or pharmacist.
- Mucus/chesty coughs: A cough is the body’s natural way of clearing the airways of mucus and phlegm. If your baby or child is coughing up mucus it might be a sign they are suffering from a cold. While this might not look or sound pleasant, it’s a natural reflex reaction and is your child’s way of clearing this mucus from their throat. Babies often have a ‘noisy’ chesty cough as their airways and ribcages are not yet as well-developed as older children or adults. This means that a chesty cough in a baby isn’t necessarily a sign of a chest infection.
- Dry/tickly coughs: A dry, tickly cough does not produce phlegm or mucus. Instead, it’s your baby or child’s body’s reaction to something that has caused irritation, such as pollen. If accompanied with a fever, difficulty feeding and wheezing then it could be a symptom of bronchiolitis.
Soothing a Cough
Most coughs should clear up within three weeks, but there are some things you can do to help relieve the irritation for your child.
Sleep and rest
- Provide a calming sleep environment to help them feel relaxed at night and to drift off
- Giving lots of cuddles can also help your child relax at night time.
Drink plenty of fluids
Ensure they drink plenty of fluids. Regular drinks can help to prevent dehydration, loosen phlegm and lubricate the throat.
Use Calcough Products for Cough Relief
For children over the age of three months suffering from a cough, you might be able to ease their symptoms with a cough medicine or syrup.
- CALCOUGH® Infant Syrup. A soothing, non-drowsy, colour- and sugar-free syrup that can relieve your child’s dry, tickly cough. It’s suitable for children over three months and contains glycerol.
- CALCOUGH® Children’s Syrup. This can help to soothe a sore throat as well as tackle a tickly, dry cough in children over one year old. It’s a non-drowsy liquid that contains glycerol and sucrose.
Relieving symptoms of a cold
When to call a doctor for a cough?
Usually you would call a doctor about a cough for your baby or child if it’s one that won’t go away or they have other worrying symptoms. As a rule, if your child is eating, drinking and breathing normally – and isn’t wheezing – there’s usually no need to contact a medical professional.
However, you do need to contact a GP if your baby or child have the following symptoms:
- Has a bad cough that won’t go away – They’ve had the cough for more than 3 weeks (persistent cough).
- Has been coughing for a long time – If the cough continues for a long time, especially if it’s worse at night or it is brought on by your child running about, it could be a sign of asthma.
- Has suddenly deteriorated or they develop other symptoms – Older children might be able to tell you if their condition becomes much worse.
- Has a cough that leaves them with breathing difficulties – If your child seems to be having trouble breathing – Call your GP even if it is in the middle of the night.
- Has a cough that quickly gets worse – For example – if they have a hacking cough or can't stop coughing.
- If your child's temperature is very high - or feeling hot and shivery. they may have a chest infection. In this case, you should take them to a GP or call 111.
- If your child is finding it hard to breathe - go to A&E or call 999 immediately as they'll need urgent treatment in hospital.
Your little one might well have a dry, sore throat for a day or two before a cold kicks in.
From 3 months.
Soothes & relieves dry, tickly coughs.
Contact the NHS
For health advice and reassurance, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.