Coughing Child. Worried Caregiver?
Your baby, your child, your teenager has a cough. Here is the good news: Its like famous surgeon Dr Red Duke use to say…
“If you're on a ranch in Texas and you hear hoofbeats, it's likely to be a cow, not a zebra.
Dr. Eddie’s translation: Common things are common so a coughing child is much more likely to have a runny nose cold virus making them cough rather than a life-threatening illness making them cough.
Still, “Zebras” do exist so when to worry? So, starting with the most worrisome signs and symptoms to look for. These are symptoms that mean you should strongly consider calling 911/Emergency medical services, consider if you should give CPR, you should consider giving the highest level of response now sort of action because your child is:
Struggling to take each breath, shortness of breathCan barely speak or cryHis/her ribs are pulling in with each breathBreathing has become very noisyBreathing was noisy a minute ago and now it is hard to see/hear a breathHe or she looks worried with each breathYour child seems out of it, to tired to focus on youBreathing is much faster than normalYou just noticed a pause in her/his breathing.You were told the if your child every looked like he /she does now it could go on to be a life-threatening situation so you are to seek medical care immediately.
While this is not an exhaustive list of when to have the highest level of concern and response for your child who is coughing, its a good place to start. As always, better to have your child evaluated and cared for by the proper medical professional than to wonder, worry and wait longer than is safe.
Now the other end of the spectrum, the “Cows” /Common cause of cough
If you knew that your child could wait to be seen by the pediatrician and in the meantime he/she would respond well to home care methods that would be a good thing right? Not always an easy thing to figure out but here are a few signs and symptoms that often mean your child may not need immediate medical professional evaluation or treatment:
Your child is:
NOT having difficulty breathing.is more than 2 months oldDoing some mouth breathing because of the stuffy nose but is NOT breathing heavy/fast.Drinking well enough to make urine every 4 to 6 hoursHas been having a stuffy/runny nose for less than 7 days.Has been having yellow or green nose mucus for less than 3 days.Looking so much better when he/she does not have a fever.Over the fever part of the illness in less than 4 days.Not having yellow and raw crusting his/her nostrilsNot having matted eyelids or eye discharge an earache.Not asthmatic or have other medical issues that doctors have told you to be seen for immediately if he/she catches a cold, has a cough, has a fever or other concerns.
Treatment for cough due to Cold:
If its a cough from an uncomplicated cold, things that may help your child feel more comfortable while his/her body fights off the cold are:
Using saline nose drops in his/her nose and suck out the drops/mucusRunning a vaporizer in the room while he/she sleeps.
As with any medical concern, if your child has special needs, is a newborn/infant or other concerns that would make it wise to see a pediatric doctor or ER or call 911, do that for sure rather than staying at home trying to figure out all the above for you and your child. I love doing internet searches...I do a search almost every day as a doctor BUT, I also have nearly 30 years of experience as a pediatric doctor to filter the good from the bad in what I find on the internet.
When in doubt, give us a call, make an appointment, seek the right level of care.
Dr Eddie Herd, MD :)