Children cough when the lining of the windpipe becomes irritated. This happens when a child is sick or when the body is fighting off an illness and making lots of mucus or phlegm. Coughing is a normal symptom of a respiratory infection, but it may be caused by other respiratory diseases.
HOW IS COUGH IN CHILDREN DIAGNOSED?
The paediatrician will do a medical evaluation by conducting a comprehensive physical examination. The other tests included are:
• Chest X-ray and/or sinus X-rays,
• Pulmonary function tests - determines the adequacy of lung inspiration and expiration effort and capability,
• Allergy testing,
• Nasal swabs for specific infectious agents (for example, respiratory syncytial virus, pertussis whooping cough),
• Specialized X-ray studies to help define anatomy (for example, barium swallow), and
• Endoscopy and bronchoscopy (insertion of a flexible device with a camera to evaluate the upper airway.
HOW IS COUGH IN CHILDREN TREATED?
Due to the diversity of causes (etiologies) of a childhood cough the therapies available need to be directed to the proper causative agent. Routine upper respiratory infections (""common cold"") respond best to rest, fluids, and tender loving care. Multiple studies have demonstrated no benefit for the various over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Moreover, a number of studies have demonstrated potential side effects to children below six years of age due to the nature of the medications included in these formulations. Use of a cool mist humidifier may be very helpful for the treatment of the laryngeal (""voice box"") swelling associated with croup. Occasionally a single dose of an anti-inflammatory medication dexamethasone (Decadron) is indicated. Bacterial infections (for example, pneumonia, sinus infections) respond well to selected antibiotics. Wheezing is treated with various inhaled medications, and if there is a concern regarding aspiration of a foreign object it may require removal by bronchoscopy.
GERD may be treated via thickening of formula for infants and/or oral medications depending on the severity of symptoms and complications of acid reflux into the oesophagus. Treatment of rare conditions (for example, cystic fibrosis) utilizes a team approach to control and minimize the course of these diseases.
DID YOU KNOW?
Whooping cough can also cause persistent coughing and vomiting in children.