What is a cough?
A cough is a common symptom of illness. Although coughs often sound bad, keep in mind that coughing is a good reflex that clears out the airways in the lungs and protects your child from getting pneumonia.
Your child may have a dry and hacking type of cough. Or your child may have a wet cough and cough up a lot of mucus. When your child continuously coughs for more than 5 minutes, it is called a coughing spasm.
What is the cause?
Most coughs are caused by a viral infection. An infection of the trachea (windpipe) is called tracheitis. An infection of the bronchi (larger air passages in the lungs) is called bronchitis. Most children get such a viral infection a couple of times a year as part of a cold. These infections are usually not serious.
How long will it last?
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.
How can I take care of my child?
When should I call my child’s healthcare provider?
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
Call during office hours if:
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick”, American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2012.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-06-03 Last reviewed: 2011-06-06
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
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