Coughing is a natural occurring reaction in the body that helps to clear the throat and airways. It is not uncommon for a child to get a cough from viruses, such as a cold. Coughing can be mild to severe and either dry or productive. There are a number of reasons why your child may be coughing, and depending on the cough, there are different approaches to suppressing it.
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Types of Cough
A cough that sounds like a seal barking is known as croup. It typically starts in the middle of the night and is usually a result of a virus. Whooping cough is caused by bacteria in the airways and presents with non-stop coughing. The whooping sound happens when your child tries to breathe in after a coughing spell. Asthma and allergies can cause coughing as well. Your child may wheeze if he or she has asthma. Allergy cough tends to be more pronounced at night. A dry, hacking cough may indicate bronchitis or an upper respiratory infection.
Drinking plenty of fluids will help ease a cough. Juice, water and broth are good options for helping a cough. Hot liquids are also soothing and warm, and sweet liquids can be given to infants to suppress a cough and make it more productive. Honey mixed with warm water is good for treating a cough, but honey should never be given to children under the age of 2.
Herbs for Coughing
The University of Maryland Medical Center website states that peppermint can be used to calm dry coughs due to its main ingredient, menthol. It acts as an expectorant, loosening and breaking up mucus. Eucalyptus, which is found in many over-the-counter throat lozenges, also helps to relieve congestion. Lozenges should not be given to young children, since they can become a choking hazard. Marshmallow, slippery elm, licorice, mullein, sundew, stinging nettle and thyme have all traditionally been used to treat coughing; however, the University of Maryland Medical Center website warns that studies are lacking and there is no scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of these herbs.
Cool or Warm Mist
Many coughs are aggravated by dry air. The Kids Health website suggests running a hot shower and sitting in the closed bathroom with your child for about 20 minutes, as the steam can help your child to breathe easier. Cool mist humidifiers as well as vaporizers can also help your child breathe easier and suppress coughing. Dr. Beckerman cautions against using a vaporizer, since they can be breeding grounds for mold and bacteria.
Consult your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s cough. The pediatrician will be able to diagnose your child and offer the best form of treatment. Contact the doctor immediately if your child is having trouble breathing or cannot stop coughing.