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Toddler Coughing After Exercise

author image Jessica Lietz
Jessica Lietz has been writing about health-related topics since 2009. She has several years of experience in genetics research, survey design, analysis and epidemiology, working on both infectious and chronic diseases. Lietz holds a Master of Public Health in epidemiology from The Ohio State University.
Toddler Coughing After Exercise
Toddlers who cough after exercise might have a respiratory illness. Photo Credit: djedzura/iStock/Getty Images

Most toddlers engage in physical play and exercise on a daily basis, as they learn how to interact with their environment and peers and develop skills such as jumping and climbing. However, sometimes exercise can lead to troubling symptoms such as coughing. Fortunately, most cases of coughing after exercise in toddlers are preventable and treatable with environmental and behavioral changes.

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Toddlers who cough after exercise might experience additional symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing or an inability to exercise for more than a few minutes at a time before getting tired. In addition, the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America website explains that toddlers might experience difficulty eating, rapid breathing and noisy breathing after exercise. Coughing that begins after exercise might worsen at night and interfere with the toddler’s sleep, explains the Child Health Guide. Symptoms might worsen if exercise takes place in dry or cold weather or outdoors when air pollution is high.


Coughing after exercise often results from asthma, and since babies and toddlers have even smaller airways than adults, they are more susceptible to asthma triggers such as exercise, respiratory infections and pollutants, explains the Allergy and Asthma Foundation of America website. Allergens such as pollen, pet dander and tobacco smoke can also cause toddlers to cough after exercising. Infections, such as colds, influenza, and bronchiolitis can also cause coughs in toddlers, explains the Parents website.


Pediatricians treat coughs caused by asthma with fast-acting inhaled medication such as albuterol. In addition, doctors might recommend a daily medication for asthma such as a leukotriene antagonist, explains the BabyCenter website. Coughs after exercise that result from an infection are treated with home care measures, such as hydration and rest. Toddlers with respiratory infections might benefit from saline drops placed into the nasal passages to help reduce postnasal drip that contributes to coughs. Toddlers with coughs caused by allergies might require over-the-counter or prescription antihistamines to reduce allergy symptoms.


Parents can help prevent coughing after exercise due to asthma by making environmental changes such as getting rid of stuffed toys and carpet from the child’s room, using hypoallergenic pillow and mattress covers, keeping toddlers inside when outdoor air pollution levels are high, and keeping children away from allergy triggers. Keeping children away from secondhand smoke can also help prevent coughing after exercise. According to the Child Health Guide website, using a cool air mist humidifier in the toddler’s room at night might also help reduce coughing after exercise.

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