What is cough?

Cough is a healthy reflex that protects your airways. It helps clear foreign particles and disease-causing organisms in the airways and prevents them from reaching the lungs. 

Cough is a common condition in children and it can occur due to changes in the weather or due to seasonal allergies. 

It can be controlled easily when it is not due to an underlying condition. Whereas in some cases, chronic cough in children may indicate an underlying disease. 

Read on to understand the different types of cough in children, their causes, and when you need to contact your doctor.

What are the different types of cough?

1. "Barking" cough. Barking cough is caused by croup or upper respiratory tract infections. As a result of infections, the child’s airway swells up making it harder for them to breathe. 

It is more common in children who are younger than 3 years of age as their airways are narrower.

2. "Whooping" cough.  A whooping sound can be heard after the cough when the child tries to take a deep breath. It’s a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis

Other symptoms of the condition include running nose, sneezing, mild cough, and a low-grade fever.

3. Cough with wheezing.  A wheezing sound is noticed when your child exhales after the cough. This is a sign that their lower airways are swollen. It can occur with asthma and viral infections such as bronchiolitis. 

Wheezing can also occur when the child’s airway is blocked by a foreign object.

4. Stridor. Stridor is a harsh noisy breathing sound that is heard when the child inhales. It occurs due to swelling of the upper airways and is mostly caused by a viral infection. 

It can also occur when a foreign object is stuck in your child’s airway and therefore, this condition needs immediate attention.

5. Nighttime cough. The cough usually worsens at night, as the congestion in the child's nose and sinuses drains down the throat and causes irritation while the child lies in bed. 

6. Sudden cough. A sudden cough is usually not serious. It can occur due to improper swallowing or due to sudden irritation in your throat.

Asthma can also trigger nighttime cough, as the airways tend to become more sensitive and irritable at night.

7. Daytime cough. It occurs due to cold or other outdoor and indoor allergens. Find out the substances that your child is allergic to (such as air freshener, pet dander, smoke, etc.) and try to avoid them.

When do you need to contact your doctor?

Mostly coughing in children is nothing to be worried about. However, you will need to consult your doctor in some cases, where the cough may indicate an underlying condition. 

Contact your doctor immediately your child shows the following symptoms along with cough:

  • If your child has difficulty in breathing or is struggling to breathe.

  • If your child’s skin, tongue, or cheeks turn blue or dusky (cyanosis). 

  • If you notice a whooping sound after the child coughs.

  • If he/she has stridor (a noisy harsh breathing sound while inhaling).

  • If the child has wheezing while exhaling (unless you already have received instructions from your doctor for managing asthma).


Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.