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- A cough is the sound made when the cough reflex clears the lungs
- A coughing fit or spell is over 5 minutes of nonstop coughing
- Coughs can be dry (no mucus) or wet (with white, yellow or green mucus)
- Most coughs are part of a cold. These symptoms are caused by a virus (called viral bronchitis).
- Other common causes: croup, bronchiolitis, asthma, allergic cough, whooping cough.
- Allergic cough. Some children get a cough from an inhaled substance they are allergic to. Examples are pollens or cats.
Phlegm or Sputum
- Yellow or green phlegm is a normal part of the healing of viral bronchitis.
- This means the lining of the trachea (windpipe) was damaged by the virus. It's part of the phlegm your child coughs up.
- Bacteria do not cause bronchitis in healthy children. Antibiotics are not helpful for the yellow or green phlegm seen with colds.
- The main treatment of a cough with phlegm is to drink lots of fluids. Also, if the air is dry, using a humidifier will help. Sipping warm clear fluids will also help coughing fits.
Return to School
- Your child can go back to school after the fever is gone. Your child should also feel well enough to join in normal activities. For practical purposes, the spread of coughs and colds cannot be prevented.
When to Call for Cough
Call 911 Now (your child may need an ambulance) If
Call Us Now (night or day) If
Call Us Within 24 Hours (between 9 am and 4 pm) If
Call Us During Weekday Office Hours If
Parent Care at Home If
CARE ADVICE FOR COUGHWhat You Should Know:
- Coughs are a normal part of a cold.
- Coughing up mucus is very important. It helps protect the lungs from pneumonia.
- A cough can be a good thing. We don't want to fully turn off your child's ability to cough.
- Here is some care advice that should help.
- Goal: Decrease the irritation or tickle in the throat that causes a dry cough.
- AGE 3 months to 1 year: Give warm clear fluids to treat the cough. Examples are apple juice and lemonade. Amount: Use a dose of 1-3 teaspoons (5-15 ml). Give 4 times per day when coughing. Caution: Do not use honey until 1 year old.
- AGE 1 year and older: Use HONEY ½ to 1 teaspoon (2-5 ml) as needed. It works as a homemade cough medicine. It can thin the secretions and loosen the cough. If you don't have any honey, you can use corn syrup.
- AGE 6 years and older: Use COUGH DROPS to coat the sore throat. If you don't have any, you can use hard candy.
- Non-prescription cough medicines are not advised. Reason: No proven benefit for children and not approved under 4 years old. (FDA 2008.)
- Honey has been shown to work better for coughs. (Caution: Do not use honey until 1 year old).
- If age over 4 years old, you might decide to use a cough medicine. Choose one with dextromethorphan (DM). It's present in most non-prescription cough syrups.
- When to Use: Give only for severe coughs that interfere with sleep or school.
- DM Dose: See Dose Table. Give every 6 to 8 hours as needed.
- Breathe warm mist (such as with shower running in a closed bathroom).
- Give warm clear fluids to drink. Examples are apple juice and lemonade. Don't use before 3 months of age.
- Amount. If 3 - 12 months of age, give 1 ounce (30 ml) each time. Limit to 4 times per day. If over 1 year of age, give as much as needed.
- Reason: Both relax the airway and loosen up any phlegm.
- For vomiting that occurs with hard coughing, give smaller amounts per feeding.
- In infants, give 2 ounces (60 ml) less formula.
- Reason: Vomiting from coughing is more common with a full stomach.