A persistent cough lasts for more than three weeks, according to the Mayo Clinic, and requires a proper diagnosis to resolve. Several medical conditions, including asthma, bronchitis and inhalation of a foreign body, cause coughing. Don't wait a month to call your pediatrician if your toddler has a cough for two or three weeks.
Asthma is particularly difficult to diagnose in a baby or toddler, states the American Academy of Pediatrics. A proper diagnosis requires measuring lung function, which is challenging in children who are very young. Your pediatrician needs to know of any other symptoms, such as when your toddler has coughing attacks -- for example, near animals or after cigarette smoke exposure. While wheezing is often a sign of asthma, a cough alone may also indicate this condition, according to AAP.
Bronchitis is a viral or bacterial infection of the lungs. It's typically accompanied by a cough as your body works to clear the lungs of mucus. While acute bronchitis sufferers often have a cough that persists for several weeks, once your toddler has been coughing for more than three weeks, the Mayo Clinic recommends contacting your pediatrician. If your toddler has a bacterial infection, antibiotics will help. However, viral infections are unaffected by antibiotics. Your pediatrician may recommend an over-the-counter cough medicine that helps ease the cough and make it more productive, as well as the use of humidifier to help coughing at night.
Cough With Cold Symptoms
If your toddler has a cold and cough that combined last more than two weeks, call your pediatrician, recommends the Mayo Clinic. Most cold symptoms resolve within a week, though a cough may persist for longer. However, the combination of symptoms, runny nose, cough, listlessness and fever, suggest a more serious infection that requires medical attention.
Gastroesophageal reflux disorder, or GERD, is also a potential culprit with a persistent cough, suggests "The Merck Manual." If your toddler's cough occurs when he's lying down and he has a history of spitting up, your doctor may require further tests to evaluate, such as an X-ray of his upper esophageal tract.
Occasionally, a child inhales an object and her body works to get it out unsuccessfully. In this case, a persistent cough occurs as her body continually tries to force out the item. If this is the culprit, your pediatrician conducts an X-ray to see what's stuck. In addition, she may require a bronchoscopy, where a flexible tube looks inside your child's lungs to view the source of irritation.