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A cough is the sound made when the cough reflex suddenly forces air and secretions from the lungs
A coughing spasm is over 5 minutes of continuous coughing
Most acute coughs are part of a cold, a viral infection of the large airway (viral bronchitis)
Other common causes: croup, bronchiolitis, asthma, allergic cough, whooping cough
Sputum or Phlegm
Yellow or green phlegm is a normal part of the healing process of viral bronchitis.
This means the lining of the trachea was damaged by the viral infection and is being coughed up as new mucosa replaces it.
Bacteria do not cause bronchitis in healthy children. Antibiotics are not indicated for the yellow or green phlegm seen with colds.
The main treatment of a productive cough is to encourage it with good fluid intake, a humidifier (if the air is dry) and warm chicken broth or apple juice for coughing spasms (if over age 1).
Return to School
Your child can return to child care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of coughs and colds cannot be prevented.
Stridor (harsh sound with breathing in) is present, see CROUP
Barky cough and hoarseness, see CROUP
Previous diagnosis of asthma, see ASTHMA ATTACK
Wheezing but no previous diagnosis of asthma, see WHEEZING
Severe difficulty breathing (struggling for each breath, unable to speak or cry because of difficulty breathing, making grunting noises with each breath)
Child has passed out or stopped breathing
Lips are bluish when not coughing
Your child looks or acts very sick
Choked on a small object that could be caught in the throat
Difficulty breathing under 1 year old and not relieved by cleaning the nose
Difficulty breathing present when not coughing
Lips have turned bluish during coughing
Ribs are pulling in with each breath (retractions)
Can't take a deep breath because of chest pain
Severe chest pain, coughed up blood or wheezing
Weak immune system (sickle cell disease, HIV, chemotherapy, organ transplant, chronic steroids, etc)
Age under 12 weeks with fever above 100.4° F (38.0° C) rectally (Caution: Do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.)
Fever over 104° F (40° C) and not improved 2 hours after fever medicine
You think your child needs to be seen urgently
You think your child needs to be seen, but not urgently
Continuous (nonstop) coughing
Age under 3 months old
Earache or sinus pain (not just congestion) is also present
Fever present for more than 3 days
Fever returns after gone for over 24 hours
Chest pain present even when not coughing
You have other questions or concerns
Coughing has kept home from school for 3 or more days
Symptoms of nasal allergy are also present
Cough has been present over 3 weeks
Cough with no complications and you don't think your child needs to be seen
Coughs are a normal part of a cold.
Coughing up mucus is very important for protecting the lungs from pneumonia.
We want to encourage a productive cough, not turn it off.
Homemade Cough Medicine:
Goal: reduce the irritation or tickle in the throat that triggers a dry cough.
AGE 3 months to 1 year: Give warm clear fluids (e.g., water or apple juice) to treat the cough. Amount: 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml) four times per day when coughing. Avoid honey until 1 year old.
AGE 1 year and older: Use HONEY ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-5 ml) as needed as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. (If not available, can use corn syrup.)
AGE 6 years and older: Use COUGH DROPS to coat the irritated throat. (If not available, can use hard candy.)
Non-Prescription Cough Medicine (DM):
Non-prescription cough medicines are not recommended. (Reason: no proven benefit for children and not approved for children under 4 years old) (FDA 2008)
Honey has been shown to work better for coughs.
If you decide to use a cough medicine from your drugstore and your child is over age 4 years, choose one with dextromethorphan (DM). It's present in most non-prescription cough syrups.
Indication: Give only for severe coughs that interfere with sleep, school or work.
DM Dosage: See Dosage table. Give every 6 to 8 hours for severe coughs that interfere with sleep, school or work.
Expose to warm mist (e.g., foggy bathroom).
Give warm fluids to drink (e.g., warm water or apple juice) if over 3 months of age.
Amount: If 3 months to 1 year of age, give warm fluids in a dosage of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml) four times per day when coughing. If over 1 year of age, use unlimited amounts as needed.
Reason: both relax the airway and loosen up the phlegm
Vomiting: For vomiting that occurs with hard coughing, reduce the amount given per feeding (e.g., in infants, give 2 oz. less formula) (Reason: Cough-induced vomiting is more common with a full stomach).
Fluids: Encourage your child to drink adequate fluids to prevent dehydration. This will also thin out the nasal secretions and loosen the phlegm in the airway.
Humidifier: If the air is dry, use a humidifier (reason: dry air makes coughs worse).
Fever Medicine: For fever above 102° F (39° C), give acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol) or ibuprofen.
Avoid Tobacco Smoke: Active or passive smoking makes coughs much worse.
Contagiousness: Your child can return to child care or school after the fever is gone and your child feels well enough to participate in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of coughs and colds cannot be prevented.
Extra Advice- Antihistamines for Allergic Cough:
Antihistamines can bring an allergic cough and nasal allergy symptoms under control within 1 hour.
Benadryl or Chlorpheniramine (CTM) products are very effective and no prescription is needed.
They need to be given every 6 to 8 hours (See Dosage table).
Viral bronchitis causes a cough for 2 to 3 weeks.
Sometimes your child will cough up lots of phlegm (mucus). The mucus can normally be gray, yellow or green.
Antibiotics are not helpful.
Call Your Doctor If:
Difficulty breathing occurs
Cough lasts over 3 weeks
Your child becomes worse
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