Coughing in Infants and Children

Cough is very common in children. When your child coughs, he is pushing air out of his lungs to clear his breathing tubes, which can be blocked for all sorts of reasons. Infections (from the mild to the more serious pneumonia, asthma, and allergies are among the more common causes, but cough can be caused by other things as well.

Answering the following questions in this health decision guide will help you understand more about what usually causes children to cough, and help you know when you should contact your doctor for medical care. Please note, this guide is not meant to take the place of a visit to your doctor's office.

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Coughing sometimes can be a sign of a serious illness. If your child is coughing, please read the following carefully.

Do any of the following other statements describe your child?

  • When my child breathes, I can see his nostrils flare, his belly move out, his ribs stick out, and/or his neck muscles tighten.

  • When my child breathes in, he makes a whistling or high-pitched noise.

  • He grunts when he breathes out.

  • His lips, mouth or fingertips are blue.

  • He is pale.

  • He can not talk or can not finish a sentence without stopping to take a breath.

  • He has swelling of the face, lips, eyes, or neck.

  • He has hives.

  • He is sleepier than usual for the time of day.

  • He is not moving normally.

  • He is not answering questions normally or seems confused.

Yes, one or more of these statements describes my child.

No, none of these statements describe my child.

Your child is coughing but does not seem to be having difficulty breathing. That is reassuring.

Do any of the following statements describe your child?

  • His chest hurts when he breathes.

  • He is coughing up yellow, green, red or brown mucous.

  • He has a fever or the chills.

  • He is very tired.

  • He doesn't want to eat.

  • He has lost weight.

Yes, one or more of these statements describes my child.

No, my child is not showing these kinds of symptoms.

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