How to Handle a Cough
Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe cough or one that lasts more than a week requires a medical checkup. But many coughs are caused by a that just needs to run its course.
How Do I Handle a Cough?
- If your child develops a "barky" or "croupy" cough, sit in a steamy bathroom together for about 20 minutes.
- Offer plenty of fluids (breast milk or formula for babies; cool water and juice for older kids). Avoid carbonated or citrus drinks that may irritate a raw throat.
- Run a cool-mist humidifier in your child's bedroom.
- Use saline (saltwater) nose drops to relieve congestion.
- Never give cough drops (a choking hazard) to young kids or cough or cold medicine to kids under 6 years of age.
Get Medical Care if Your Child:
- has severe cough spasms or attacks, wheezing, or stridor (a high-pitched sound when breathing in)
- has a cough that lasts 3 weeks, gets worse, happens the same time every year, or seems caused by something specific (such as pollen, dust, pets, etc.)
- has a fever that lasts more than a couple of days
- is younger than 3 months old
- is breathing fast or working hard to breathe
- has a blue or pale color in the lips, face, or tongue during or after coughing
How Can I Prevent a Cough?
- Follow the doctor's treatment plan if your child has asthma or allergies.
- Avoid anyone who smokes or has a cold.
- Make sure your child gets the diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine or combination booster (Tdap) on time.
- Teach kids to sneeze or cough into their albow, not their hands.
- Wash hands well and often.
Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: June 2018
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