Kids Cough 101. A Guide for First Time Parents

Is your child coughing and hacking all day long? Are you in a state of panic because you have no clue as to what exactly to do? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Parents can become anxious when their little one starts coughing. This situation is especially concerning for first-time parents or even caregivers who have had no previous experience caring for a coughing child.

From knowing the symptoms to providing the right cough and cold treatment, we share with you valuable tips for helping the child in your care become free from the pesky cough.

Coping with Cough

It may be one of the most common illnesses in kids, but coughing is not easy on your child or on you. You don’t want to see your toddler racked with bouts of coughing, so you do your best to prevent it from happening and help your child get immediate cough relief when it does.

Some parents may already panic at the first sign of a cough, but coughing may just be your child’s body trying to rid itself of some kind of irritant or foreign object. Coughing is an essential bodily reflex that helps protect the airways in your child’s chest and throat. It’s a way to cough out mucus or lodged objects out of the body.

Causes of Cough

Acid Reflux

Chest pain and chronic cough are a couple of symptoms of acid reflux or heartburn. It can be triggered by specific food, medications, obesity, or stress. Children may exhibit other symptoms such as frequent vomiting or spitting, a burning sensation in the chest, or a bad taste in the mouth. Consult a doctor to determine your child’s best treatment plan as it depends on your child’s age, health, and other factors such as diet.


Allergies may also cause a child to cough. Exposure to allergens such as animal dander, dust, food, or pollen may trigger this reaction. It is better to familiarize yourself with allergy facts so you know how to avoid these triggers.


Asthma symptoms vary from child to child, so it is quite challenging to diagnose. A wheezing cough may be one indicator, but it is best to take your child to a doctor to check for asthma symptoms.


A lingering cough may also be caused by colds, croup, or the flu. Children tend to have a mild to moderate cough when they have colds. When kids have croup, they may exhibit a “barking” cough accompanied by noisy breathing, especially at night. A severe, dry cough typically comes with the flu. Antibiotics cannot treat these viral infections, so your doctor may prescribe a different way of managing them.

Whooping Cough

Another possible cause of cough is called pertussis, which is characterized by uncontrollable and violent coughing. This is a contagious kind of respiratory disease, but it can be prevented by vaccination. Your child’s physician may also prescribe antibiotics for its treatment.

Cough Treatments

Most coughs caused by viruses just have to run their course and may run for about two weeks. Antibiotics are not given since this type of medicine only works against bacteria.

When your child’s school, extra-curricular activities, and sleep are bothered by bouts of coughing, you can give over-the-counter (OTC) medicine that can provide them fast cough relief in as little as 30 minutes. Make sure to call or visit your doctor before administering medications to ensure the safety and correct dosage.

Parents or caregivers should not give cough medicine to children under the age of four. Aspirin should also never be given to children under 18 years old as this may cause a severe brain disease called Reye’s syndrome.

Know When to Call the Doctor

You should watch out for red flags when your child has a cough. Here are some of the tell-tale signs that you should seek immediate help:

  • Children younger than three months old have a fever and cough for more than a few hours.
  • Child is dehydrated and exhibiting symptoms such as dizziness, drowsiness, dry or sticky mouth, crying with little to no tears, going through fewer diapers than usual or peeing less than usual, and  sunken eyes.
  • Child has blue-tinged lips, face, tongue, or nails.
  • Child has trouble breathing, is working hard to breathe, or is breathing faster than usual.
  • Child is coughing but has a high fever and no runny or stuffy nose.
  • Child makes a “whooping,” noisy, or musical sound when breathing in after coughing.
  • Child makes a wheezing sound whenever they exhale.
  • Child has difficulty talking or breathing.
  • Child coughs up blood.

Get It Off Your Chest

When your child is coughing, you also have a hard time as a parent. You can’t sleep well because you need to observe and monitor your little one. Good thing that there are OTC cough medicines specifically designed to provide immediate relief to coughing children. Just remember to always work with your child’s physician for a safe, healthy, and happy child.