What you need to know about Cough treatments
A cough can sound awful, but it is rarely a sign of serious illness. Coughing is an important reflex which helps to clear mucus from the airways. It is a common symptom in children, especially when they are under 5 years of age.
Many children get a cough when they have a cold and will continue coughing for three weeks or more. The cough will normally get better on its own, given rest and time.
See your doctor straight away if your child has a cough and:
is working hard with their breathing or is breathing fast
has a temperature higher than 38.5 degrees Celsius
has difficulty speaking normally or being unable to finish a whole sentence because of their coughing or breathing
you can hear wheezing or whistling in their chest.
You should also see your doctor if your child has a persistent daily cough which has lasted more than four weeks. If you are worried about your child's cough and unsure what to do, call Healthline on 0800 611 116.
Causes of cough in children
Some of the common or serious causes of cough in children include:
Colds or chest infections
Young children can have between 6 to 12 of these a year. If they are at daycare, this can be more.
A wet, chesty cough may be due to a chest infection. If it lasts more than two weeks you need to see a doctor as this may be due to underlying chest problems and your child should see a doctor.
An asthma-related cough is usually dry and occurs at night, with sport or in the early morning.
There will usually be other symptoms such as wheeze, allergy (eczema or hayfever), or a history of asthma and allergy in the family.
If a child has a chronic cough, one that lasts more than four weeks, they should see a doctor. One of the serious conditions to be considered is bronchiectasis and the longer a wet persistent cough is left, the more risk of scarring and permanent damage to the lungs.
Second-hand cigarette smoke is another common cause of cough in children even when they are well. Make sure your child’s environment is smoke-free. Ask all visitors and whanau to smoke outside and keep your car smoke-free too.
This can start like a cold or flu, but the cough persists and gets worse with coughing spasms which can last weeks.
This can also start like a cold or flu and after a day or two can lead to a barking cough and raspy breathing.
Looking after a cough with natural remedies
Encourage rest and give lots to drink.
Honey can act to soothe the throat and is suitable for children over the age of one year.
Vapour rubs can be applied to the chest and back.
Ask your pharmacist for advice on cough mixtures which are safe to use for your child
Productive cough should be not suppressed; instead, mucus-dissolving agents are recommended.