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Cough in children – a guide to diseases and home remedies

This post is also available in: Svenska

Coughing protects your lungs against infections

Basically all healthy children who catch a cold, have a cough. This is good! Coughing up mucus and viruses that enter the lungs, protects against pneumonia. It’s an important part of the body’s protection against infections. At the children’s hospital, we notice that children with severe brain damage and mobility impairments, who do not have a functioning cough reflex, often get pneumonia after having a cold for a few days. They can’t clear the cold themselves, partly because they can’t cough. In the hospital, they must be given antibiotics, oxygen and respiratory aid. There are even special cough machines used to help these children with “artificial coughing” when they get sick.

So be grateful that your child can cough!

Prolonged coughing may be intrinsic asthma

A cough often sits for up to three weeks after each cold. Prolonged coughing periods that sit for longer than three weeks, and interfere with sleep, can be signs of asthma.

Read more about intrinsic asthma in children here.

Cough medicine is unsafe in children

Some of our most common cough medicines contain morphine or a similar ingredient in the same family. The morphine works by calming the child and blocking the cough reflex. They are not shown to be effective in any scientific studies. In addition, I am very much opposed to giving morphine mixtures to babies or children. In a previous post, I have reviewed all cough medicines in Sweden, what they contain, and investigated if they work.

Read an in-depth post about cough medicines for children here.

Honey – best home remedy for coughs

Unlike cough medicines, however, household honey now has scientific support. In a study, 10 ml of honey before bedtime had a better effect on children’s and parents’ sleep, and the parents’ experience of how much the child coughed, compared to date syrup. There was no difference between the different kinds of honey. However, honey should not be used in infants under one year of age because of the risk of contamination of botulinum toxin-producing bacterial spores. Honey does not always incapacitate infants but in unfortunate cases, it can cause serious illness in infants.

Honey from the pantry has an effect against dry cough in children, unlike the drugs we have access to! Stay at home with your child, cuddle in bed and give them a couple of teaspoons of honey before bedtime.

Read the scientific study on honey versus cough here.

Cough and difficulty breathing – asthma?

Children who have a cough and have difficulty breathing need to visit the pediatric emergency room. This is usually a more severe case of intrinsic asthma that needs to be treated with inhalations.

How to know when your child is having difficulty breathing? Watch videos and read about it here.

Barking cough and wheezing – croup?

If your child is experiencing a barking cough and hissing upon inhalation, it could be croup. Seek the children’s emergency department for treatment.

Learn more about croup in this post.

Watch out for whooping cough in infants

Whooping cough is a disease that produces severe, long-term coughing attacks. Whooping cough vaccinations are imoprtant. For unvaccinated infants (under three months of age), whopping cough (or pertussis) can be fatal. If you, as a parent, have a long-term cough and an infant, test yourself for whooping cough.

A child under three months of age, with increasingly intense coughing attacks, should also be examined for whooping cough. It’s best if your baby receives antibiotic treatment early during the course of the disease. It’s better to seek medical help before you hear the typical ‘whoop’ (screeching car sounds upon inhalation at the end of a coughing attack). But of course, as soon as you hear it, seek emergency assistance.

Read more about whooping cough in children here.

Read more about babies with colds here.

Pneumonia – cough and high fever

Persistent cough with concomitant high fever (over 38.5C or 101.3F), general malaise and loss of appetite may be signs of pneumonia. Seek a health center for children over one year old or the children’s emergency room for infants under one. Children with these signs, are slumped, have bluish skin or struggle physically with each breath, should visit the pediatric emergency room regardless of their age.

Read more about fever in children here.

Read more about pneumonia in children here.

When is it better not to seek emergency for children with a cough?

The vast majority of children experiencing coughs, they feel best being at home with their parents or another adult that the child knows well. Do cozy activities that you’ll both enjoy. Turn it into a “luxurious” day/ night in. Sit on the sofa under one blanket or drink hot chocolate and read their favorite book. Watch a new movie together, sing songs, draw or play a computer game together. And have a bit of honey in the evening if you want. When the cold has subsided and there is only the cough left, and the child is alert and happy, they can go back to school or preschool.

Read more:

Coronavirus covid-19 – facts for parents and children

Cough in children – a guide to diseases and home remedies

Cough medicine for children – Mollipect, Cocillana or Lepheton?

Pneumonia in children – symptoms and treatment

Colds in babies – snotty and stuffy nose. How to help

Colds in babies – snotty and stuffy nose. How to help

Wheezing or strained breathing – a guide to when your child has difficulty breathing

Cough medicine for children – Mollipect, Cocillana or Lepheton?

Pneumonia in children – symptoms and treatment

Colds in babies – snotty and stuffy nose. How to help

Croup in children – symptoms and treatment

Whooping cough – symptoms, how it sounds, vaccine, test and treatment

Pneumonia in children – symptoms and treatment

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