A dry cough when your child wakes in the morning is usually caused by mucous that has drained down the throat while the child is sleeping. When your child changes positions, he may cough to move the mucous out of his throat. Children may cough for up to four weeks, following a respiratory illness, according to Dr. Jerry Rubin, MD, but allergies are a more likely cause for a chronic morning cough.
Most morning coughs are caused by nasal allergies, according to the Dr. Paul website. These allergies may occur seasonally, if the child is allergic to pollens or molds -- although many children suffer year-round allergies triggered by pet dander, dust, house mold or cigarette smoke. Occasionally a dry, morning cough may be caused by asthma or an illness. Left untreated, nasal allergies can cause a sinus infection.
In addition to a dry morning cough, watch for other symptoms of nasal allergies, such as a runny nose or watery eyes, sneezing, dark circles under the eyes or mouth breathing, according to The Philadelphia Children's Hospital. Signs of asthma may include wheezing and coughing throughout the day, especially after exercise or being exposed to cold, dry air. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is sometimes associated with asthma and is caused by stomach acids that leak into the esophagus. Heartburn is the main symptom of GERD, although coughing sometimes occurs, too.
Keep windows closed to keep pollens out, and dust and vacuum frequently. Do not smoke in the home or around your child. Elevate your child at night on two pillows to reduce coughing, and run a well-maintained humidifier to increase humidity, which can reduce swelling and irritation in the nasal passages. Clean the humidifier weekly, though, to prevent mold and bacteria production. Use saline nasal drops several times per day to moisturize nasal passages. A warm drink, such as warm water or diluted herb tea can also reduce coughing.
When to Consult a Doctor
Seek treatment for your child if the cough lasts for more than one week, or if your child shows signs of serious illness, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, high fever or lethargy. Your doctor can positively identify nasal allergies and rule out other possible causes. She may prescribe antihistamines or nasal corticosteroids, in addition to allergy testing. If your child is diagnosed with asthma, she'll likely receive medications to reduce inflammation and coughing.