When to Take Child to Doctor for Cough?

Coughs can come from anything — allergies, common colds, bronchitis, RSV, asthma, croup, and so much more. How is a parent to know when a cough is a sign of something serious? Or, when it is nothing at all to worry about? 

While most coughs are associated with minor respiratory infections that will clear up on their own, sometimes it is best for your child to see their pediatrician. Here is how you will know when to take your child to the doctor for a cough.

The Age of Your Child

Kids get colds a lot. In fact, many will have several colds throughout the year — and this includes kids of all ages. 

While babies get colds, too, those younger than a year old should be seen by the pediatrician if they are coughing. This is even more imperative if the cough is accompanied by other symptoms, such as a fever. 

How Long Your Child Has Been Coughing

How long has the cough stuck around? The length of time they have been coughing can be an indicator of whether or not an appointment should be made with the pediatrician. For instance, those who currently have a cold or are just getting over one will likely have a cough that will dissipate over time without treatment. A normal cough will last about a week to 10 days. 

If your child is constantly coughing during this time — or if the cough lasts longer than two weeks —- call your pediatrician. 

Night-Time Coughing

Does your child primarily cough at night? Nighttime coughing when they have a cold is to be expected. The reason for this is usually post-nasal drip causing irritation. As the symptoms of the cold start to clear up, so will the nighttime coughing. 

What happens if your child is coughing at night without a cold? 

Gastro issues, such as acid reflux, as well as asthma can lead to coughing at night. If your child is coughing when they go to bed and they do not have a cold, give your pediatrician a call. 

A Wet Cough

A wet cough is one that sounds like it is accompanied by lots of phlegm. These coughs often sound like the child is choking or gagging — and they may even cough up mucus or induce vomiting.  

These coughs can sound bad. 

Sometimes they could indicate that the lungs need to be checked. Other times, they could be nothing more than allergy-related or the result of gastroesophageal reflux. 

If it persists longer than a week or two, see the pediatrician. 

A Wheezing Cough

Hearing a child wheeze can be scary. It may feel as though your child is struggling to breathe or gasping for air. This is almost always associated with a respiratory condition, such as an infection or asthma. 

Having your child examined by the pediatrician for persistent wheezing is always a good idea. If you notice any sign of struggle when it comes to breathing, call 911 or seek medical attention right away. 

Coughing When Physically Active

Kids move around a lot, always running and playing. This should not lead to coughing unless your child has recently had a cold they are recovering from. If coughing when they are physically active is a common occurrence, you may want to reach out to your pediatrician. This could be a sign of asthma. 

A Croup Cough

Last but not least, a croup cough can sound alarming. Some have even referred to it as sounding like a dog bark or a seal. 

Many young kids get croup — a respiratory condition that leads to swelling of the trachea and larynx. The sound of this cough can be alarming for parents to hear, but it will usually clear up on its own. 

If this croup cough persists, contact your child’s pediatrician. 

Seeking Treatment for Coughs

Regardless of what type of cough your child has, it is important to know that their pediatrician is always available to address any concerns you may have. 

If you feel they need to be seen, make the appointment. 

Advocare Haddon Pediatric Group is a highly experienced team of pediatricians serving patients from birth through college. They have been an established leader in pediatrics for decades in the Haddon Heights and Mullica Hill areas of New Jersey.