CGH Main Clinic »  Pediatrics »  Seasonal Awareness »  Coughs


  • A cough can be dry and hacking or wet and productive.
  • A coughing spasm is more than 5 minutes of continuous coughing.

Most coughs are caused by a viral infection of the trachea (windpipe) or bronchi ( larger air passages in the lungs). These infections are called tracheitis and bronchitis. Most children get such a viral infection a couple of times a year as part of a cold. Coughing clears the lungs and protects them from pneumonia. Bronchitis isn't serious.

Usually bronchitis causes a dry tickly cough that lasts 2 to 3 weeks. Sometimes the cough becomes loose (wet) for a few days, and your child coughs up a lot of phlegm (mucus). This is usually a sign that the end of the illness is near.

There are many types of medicines to loosen the cough and thin the secretions. Cough drops or hard candy can relieve the irritated throat. Warm liquids such as warm lemonade or warm apple juice will help coughing spasms.

Cough-suppressant drugs reduce the cough reflex. However, the cough reflex helps protect the lungs. Use cough-suppressant drugs only for dry coughs that interfere with sleep, school attendance, or work.

Dry air seems to make coughs worse, so encourage your child to drink a lot and use a humidifier in your child's bedroom.

Exercise can cause coughing spasms which might mean that physical activities should be kept to a minimum temporarily.

Don't let anyone smoke around your coughing child.

Call your physician immediately if:

  • Breathing becomes difficult AND is not better after you clear the nose.
  • Breathing becomes fast or labored
  • Your child starts acting very sick.


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