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Baby Medical Q&A, Issue #097 Baby Cough
July 01, 2015

Welcome to another edition of Baby Medical Q&A News.

Cough in Babies

This month's ezine is about cough in babies as it's coming onto winter in the northern hemisphere and this is the time for viral respiratory tract infections. Most infections are mild and self-limiting but it's important for parents to know what to do and when to worry.

I am illlustrating this month with a recent question.


My 3 month old infant grandson has a bad cough and stuffy nose.  The phlem will cause him to choke and gag turning very red almost purple. 

The doctor said it is nothing to be concerned about but I am.  We spent last night in the bathroom with the shower on for steam. What can I use to clear up the phlem?


General measures

Cough remedies are not advised for babies (or older children for that matter).

Sometimes babies get a blocked nose with a virus. Babies preferentially breathe through the nose. If the nose is blocked with phlegm from a virus they need to breathe through the mouth which is very difficult if there is a nipple in the mouth. In cases where the blocked nose is making feeding difficult, normal saline nose drops before feeds and sleep can be useful.

It is important to look out for signs of respiratory distress as babies have less reserves than older children and need to be seen by medical staff early rather than late if there is distress. To read about signs of respiratory distress, click here

Specific Treatments

It depends on the cause as to what specifc treatment is required if any.

For example, the baby may have bronchiolitis causing coughing - for more information on this relatively common cause of coughing in babies, click here.

There are other viral infections that can cause coughing as well. One serious cause of fits of coughing in babies that can result in them going blue or even cause them to stop breathing momentarily is whooping cough (also known as pertussis infection). It is prevented by immunization but babies are at risk before the first immunization, in which case it is important that adults living in the same household are protected. You can read more about whooping cough and immunization by clicking here.

Most respiratory tract infections in babies are viral but they can have bacterial infections as well, such as pneumonia - you can read more on this by clicking here.

Remember young babies are vulnerable to respiratory diseases and you need to be careful not to miss signs that things are deteriorating. Watching out to see if the baby is working hard with breathing which we call respiratory distress is an important thing you can do as a parent and if you are worried, see your doctor or emergency room.

I love this infographic. The site is worth a visit.

Why Mums and Dads Are Superheroes without the Capes - An infographic by the team at Bonza Brats

Please feel free to share this ezine with family and friends.

Till next time,

Dr Maud

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