This page answers questions about toddler and baby cough - the causes of and how to manage the cough.
Studies have shown that normal children can cough up to 10 times a day, and this can increase up to 100 times a day with a cold.
Cough is a common symptom seen in babies and toddlers and can be
Acute cough - so cough lasting less than 2 weeks - is most commonly caused by viral respiratory tract infections in children.
Cough associated with wheezing is most usually caused by asthma.
In a small proportion, toddler or baby cough is caused by bronchitis or pneumonia.
Toddlers who put small objects in their mouths can inhale them into the lungs and this can cause cough, so if your toddler has had a choking episode, you may need him to be evaluated for an inhaled foreign body - this usually involves an chest x-ray.
Most (approximately 9 out of 10) toddler or baby cough will have no complications.
Of those children that do get complications,
Some children will have a protracted course, so the cough will last longer than 2 weeks and may last up to 4 weeks. The features will be of a non-specific cough - see below.
Non-specific cough in children has the following features:
The most important thing you can do is to ensure your child is not exposed to tobacco smoke.
Simple measures to stop cough are all that are usually required.
In most cases of toddler or baby cough, as the cause is a viral upper respiratory tract infection, only supportive treatment is needed, so keep your infant or toddler's fluids up so he doesn't get dehydrated, and give paracetamol or acetaminophen for fever if he is uncomfortable.
If you are concerned your toddler may have aspirated (inhaled) a foreign object, so if you can remember a choking episode at the beginning of the cough, see your doctor for a chest x-ray. It is important that foreign bodies in the lungs are removed as they can cause long term lung damage if they are not removed.
If your child has wheezing with the cough, asthma medication may be required so see your doctor.
If your child is unwell or is having difficulty breathing, see your doctor as he may have an infection that requires antibiotics.
There are some coughs that help make a specific diagnosis, such as:
See your doctor if your toddler or baby cough is associated with:
There are a number of reasons a toddler or infant may have cough lasting longer than 4 weeks of age.
Assessment including clinical examination by a doctor will be required looking for a specific causes, such as:
Investigations for chronic cough include chest x-ray and consideration of the Mantoux test for TB.
Specific causes of toddler or baby cough, if found, will be treated accordingly. However, quite a number of children with chronic cough will have non-specific features.
Non-specific cough is quite common in children, and if your toddler has features of non-specific cough, little investigation other than a chest x-ray will be required.
Protracted bronchitis is a common cause of chronic cough in children. The features are:
The treatment is antibiotics.
Not usually. Asthma in children is usually associated with wheezing and distress in breathing. Isolated cough is usually not asthma and does not respond to asthma medication.
Children do make sputum, particularly if they have an infection. However, they tend to swallow the sputum rather than spit it out so it is uncommon to see sputum when children have infections.
Sometimes, the coughing associated with an infection can cause vomiting and the vomit will have mucus (sputum) in it.
Last reviewed 24 May 2010
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