What is causing your child’s cough?

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Coughing is a normal sign of cold and flu season, but it’s tough when it keeps your kids up at night.

Dr. Ryan Redman with East Tennessee Children’s Hospital says the type of cough may give you some clues about your child’s illness. He says a cough alone, however, doesn’t warrant a trip to the doctor.

A “barky” cough is usually caused by swelling in the upper part of the airway. This is a tell-tale sign of croup, usually caused by a virus. Kids younger than three are more at risk for croup because their airways are more narrow. This type of cough can come on suddenly, often in the middle of the night, and can have a noisy, harsh breathing sound called stridor.

Whooping cough, or pertussis, is an infection of the airways caused by bacteria. Kids with pertussis will have back-to-back coughs, or “fits,” and gasp for air inbetween, making a “whooping” sound.

A persistent cough that has whistling or wheezing; lasts longer than 10 days; worsens at night, after exercise or exposure to allergens may be asthma, or it could just be a cough that hangs on after a virus. Talk with a pediatrician to diagnose.

Over the counter cold medications are not recommended for children because they can cause serious side effects. Make sure your kids stay hydrated. Warm, clear liquids can help. Avoid honey for babies. Use a humidifier. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be used to treat fever or pain.

Bring your child to the emergency room if he or she has trouble breathing, rapid breathing, a blue color to the lips or face, or signs of dehydration.

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