Decoding Your Baby’s Cough
Are you worried about your baby coughing? Is it something you need to get checked out with your doctor?
Coughing is a very common symptom among babies and it isn’t always a sign of a serious condition. Infact, coughing is a healthy and important reflex that helps protect the airways in the throat and chest from irritating mucous and other secretions. It's always helpful to be able to decode your child's cough, so that you can take care of it appropriately and if necessary, go to the doctor.
1. Common cold
Cough type - A wet cough without wheezing or fast breathing, at day or night, is usually a symptom of common cold or viral infections of the throat and nose. Consistent coughing usually lasts for about 7 to 10 days, but can linger longer with mild improvements.
It can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as a mild fever, runny nose, sneezing and watery eyes.
Treatment - Nasal saline drops have been known to work best for babies and toddlers. Make sure to get one that is recommended by your pediatrician. Offer your baby lots of fluids to help thin the mucus.
Cough type - A dry, distinctive, bark-like cough, which usually wakes your child in the middle of the night could mean your baby has croup. Croup is a contagious viral infection that causes the windpipes to swell and narrow. It usually affects kids between 6 months and 3 years.
Treatment - Sit with your little one in a steamy bathroom for 10 minutes. The humidity will help calm his/her cough. If the air is chilly, especially at nights, wrap him/her in warm blankets. Croup usually runs its course for 3 to 4 days. However, if you feel your baby’s cough has worsened or if he/she is having trouble breathing, contact the doctor right away.
3. The flu
Cough type - A mildly hoarse, wet or throaty cough that comes frequently and is accompanied by high fever and decreased appetite indicates that your baby has the flu. Its most common during winters.
Treatment - Treat it with lots of fluids and rest. Call the doctor if the fever is running high. Acetaminophen is usually prescribed to reduce fever and relieve any pain.
Cough type - When the cough is persistent and is accompanied by symptoms like rapid breathing, fever or chest pains, your baby could be suffering from pneumonia, an infection in the lungs.
Treatment - Pneumonia cannot be treated at home. You must see a doctor immediately. For bacterial pneumonia, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics, but these will not work for viral pneumonia.
Cough type - If your baby’s cough is phlegmy or wheezy and is accompanied by difficult breathing, it could be a sign of bronchiolitis or asthma. It is very difficult to tell these apart, as they have similar symptoms.
Asthma is not common in children under 2 years unless there’s a family history of allergy and asthma. Bronchiolitis in babies under the age of one is generally caused by a virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It has the ability to penetrate the lungs of infants and can be potentially life-threatening.
Treatment - Whatever the case, it is always best to call your doctor when you hear your infant wheezing.
For asthma, a liquid form of asthma medicine, albuterol, is prescribed to open up the airways. In severe cases, albuterol is administered using a device called a nebulizer, which delivers the medicine in fine mist.
For bronchiolitis, once your baby’s breathing is under control, it can be treated by providing lots of fluids and rest.
6. Foreign objects
Cough type - While eating or playing with small toys, if your baby starts gasping or coughing, it might be because he/she has swallowed something and is choking on it. It is usually a small, persistent cough or gasping.
Treatment - In most cases, they cough it out themselves. If you suspect a blocked passageway, turn your baby over and immediately deliver five back blows/slaps between his/her shoulder blades. If you’re unable to dislodge the foreign object, take him/her to the hospital immediately.
As a parent, it is important for you to know when your baby needs medical attention and when he/she doesn’t. Try not to ignore it when you feel that your baby is in distress, no matter how small it appears to be.