Chronic Cough in Children

About Chronic Cough in Children

A chronic cough in children could be pneumonia. But it’s usually far less severe than that. Bacterial chronic bronchitis is the leading cause of chronic cough in children (Note: in adults, it’s asthma, GERD and upper airway cough syndrome.)

Bronchitis is the inflammation of the large breathing tubes (bronchi). This results in increased mucus secretion as well as other physiological changes.

Causes of Chronic Cough and Children

An acute cough in children usually lasts for one to two weeks. A chronic cough in children will last three to four weeks. Some acute coughs can turn chronic.

Following are some chronic cough causes:

  • Viral Upper Respiratory Tract Infections- This post nasal drip cough results from mucus as it slowly drips from the nose and sinuses to the back of the throat. This is usually a virus. Healthy pre schoolers can have six to eight of these per year.
  • Nasal and Sinus Disease Cough- When the nasal passages or the sinuses get inflamed, the resulting cough can become chronic. Sometimes allergies are the cause of this cough
  • Persistent Cough- This can start as a dry cough. Then after a week or so, it could turn into a productive cough. A productive cough is a constant cough that brings up mucus from the lungs.
  • Stomach and Esophageal Cough Causes- Found in less than 10% of children who have chronic coughs, this cough stems from gastroesophegeal reflux disease (GERD). In young infants, reflux can be a cause of a persistent cough especially if it happens after feeding.
  • Post Viral Cough- Coughs after a viral respiratory infection can last several weeks. There’s no therapy or medication for this and luckily, they do eventually resolve themselves.
  • Habit Cough- Another chronic cough in children with no physical cause is habit cough. This “barking cough” tends to be dry and repetitive.
  • Irritant Cough- When children are exposed to smoking or other environmental irritants like air pollution or vehicle emissions, they can develop a chronic cough.
  • Inhaled Foreign Substance- Children, especially 2 to 4 year old boys, have a habit of inhaling small pieces of plastic, hard candy, or other foods. Until the foreign body is discovered and removed, this can be a chronic cough.

Chronic Cough Treatment

Medication can be used to treat chronic coughs in children. But the primary treatment needs to be targeted at the underlying cause, whether it be asthma, GERD or upper respiratory infections.

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