The 7 Types Of Coughs In Children: Causes & Treatment

How To Recognise The Different Types Of Coughs In Kids

With kids in school, it’s almost a certainty that at some point they are going to bring home a bug, and there is a very good chance a cough will come with it. While an ill child describing how they feel can be vague and difficult to know what to do with, learning how to identify the type of cough a child may have by its characteristics is the first step for parents in being able to take action.

Generally, coughs can be placed into seven categories. The categories may account for the sound of the cough, whether it produces mucus or leads to breathing issues and what other symptoms may accompany it. Most of these coughs can be treated at home with over-the-counter medications and home remedies but some may require a trip to The Emergency Center.

The 7 Types Of Coughs In Children: Causes & Treatment

Long Dry Cough That Doesn’t Seem To Stop

A cough can last weeks due to a mild viral infection or ongoing issues with allergies during a particular time of year or a sinus infection. The cough is usually mild and does not have a serious impact on a kid’s daily life, but it simply won’t go away.

At-home treatment: Daily allergy medication and/or cough suppressant

Wheezy Cough Could Be A Sign Of Inflammation

A cough that also has a wheeze when breathing could be a sign of swelling in the airways of the lungs. It may be caused by asthma or a viral infection leading to bronchitis.

At-home treatment: Pain reliever, cough suppressants, rescue inhaler

Note: If the cough starts while eating or after a small child puts something in his/her mouth, it may indicate something was inhaled down the windpipe and is lodged in the lungs. Seek care at The Emergency Center immediately.

Barking Cough Is Caused By An Enlargement Of The Windpipe

This cough sounds similar to a dog’s bark and is most common in kids under the age of three. It usually is caused by an enlargement of the windpipe and voice box—more commonly known as croup. Because it affects the windpipe, the cough may also be accompanied by a whistling sound when the child is breathing. Croup is usually mild and only lasts a few days.

At-home treatment: Pain/fever reliever, humidifier

Cough Caused For Resting With Runny Nose

Kids with runny noses or colds may not develop a cough until they lay down to rest or sleep. The way the mucus drains through the sinus passages can change and go down the throat and on to irritate airways causing a cough and preventing restful sleep.

At-home treatment: Cold medication, cough suppressants

Cough & Fever Caused By A Cold

A mild fever can be expected with a cold and resulting cough. A cough that comes with a high fever and labored, fast breathing, though, can be a sign of pneumonia.

At-home treatment: None. Call the doctor or go to The Emergency Center.

Whooping Cough Could Be A Sign Of Bacterial Infection

Characterized by a coughing fit that usually ends in a deep breath that sounds like a ‘whoop,’ pertussis is a bacterial infection of the airways. It can occur at any age and is very contagious. However, most kids are vaccinated against it as part of the DTaP vaccine series starting as early as two months.

At-home treatment: None. Antibiotics can be prescribed by a pediatrician or at The Emergency Center.

Coughing Fits That May Lead To Vomiting

Kids with heavy coughing may trigger their gag reflex causing them to vomit. Alternatively, large amounts of mucus draining into the stomach during a cold or sinus infection also may lead to nausea and vomiting.

At-home treatment: Cough suppressants, cold medication

When To Visit The Emergency Center For Your Child’s Cough

Severe versions of any of these coughs should be checked out by your pediatrician or at a children’s emergency room. This may include coughs that:

  • are associated with any difficulty breathing
  • come with a fever higher than 102°F
  • are accompanied by bluish lips/nose/tongue
  • get worse over the course of a few days and are accompanied by a fever

The Emergency Center offers a range of treatments both to provide immediate relief as necessary and long-term relief by diagnosing and addressing the underlying cause. While the care may be different depending on the type of cough, the goal is always to get kids back to being kids.

Enjoy life. We’ll be here for the bumps along the way.


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The Emergency Center

San Antonio
11320 Alamo Ranch Pkwy
San Antonio, TX 78253

Phone: 210-485-3644