Cough is a natural protective action of the body to clear up breathing ways. Although most coughs do not mean anything serious and usually go without treatment, it still sounds very scary every time baby coughs. You should always know why coughs happen and especially, when it cannot stop.
What is the Cough?
Cough is a force of air coming out from the throat. Breathing tract from nose to bronchi is covered with little hair-like ciliated epithelium. This respiratory epithelia helps to brush airways from any debris, naturally or via cough.
Any foreign particles, such as smoke, dust, or germs, can make baby coughing. And actually, thanks to cough, these particles do not get down to his lungs, which can cause most dangerous problem - pneumonia.
What are Types of Cough?
Although cough is important, not every cough is innocent.
Short term cough can be productive only when it is wet and produces mucus. Mucus brings micro infection or micro debris up from baby’s bronchi.
Persistent cough is usually dry, barking or obstructive. This cough is most disturbing and often worse at night. It can be not only annoying, but painful, cause vomiting and even lead to breathing failure.
What Causes Cough?
Short-term coughs can start pretty easily due to different reasons:
- Respiratory tract infections which cause cold, flu, whooping cough, and bronchiolitis.
- Numerous allergens, such as, dust, pollen, some foods, smoke, can cause allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
A persistent cough in a baby can be a sign of a serious condition, such as asthma or cystic fibrosis. Persistent cough needs immediate medical involvement.
How Innocent Cough is Different from Dangerous?
Bronchiolitis is a mild respiratory tract infection with fever and cold-like symptoms.
Croup is a distinctive barking cough and a harsh sound when the baby breathes in.
Whooping cough is an acute, highly contagious respiratory infection, caused by coccobacillus. It is a cyclical disease occurring every three to four years.
In infants under 3 months old, whooping cough causes the most severe cases with deaths worldwide each year. That is why it is vaccinated within a mandatory package in many countries.
How I Recognise Whooping Cough?
Whooping cough is most intense cough, with hacking bouts, vomiting, and a "whoop" sound with sharp intake of breath after coughing. It takes at least two weeks of cough before clearing.
How I can Help my Baby with Cold and Cough?
Coughs often do not need any treatment, even if they are caused by cold or virus. Usually after the first few days of the sickness, cold symptoms start to ease as the baby’s immune system clears the virus. An irritating cough may stay up to 2 more weeks.
You can just help your baby with the following support treatment and try to ease your baby’s cough the way your grandmother probably did for you.
- Be sure your baby is dressed warm, especially feet should be warm, in socks or just covered.
- Give your baby warm drinks more often. A warm drink made with honey and lemon will have same soothing effect to baby’s sore throat as cough medicine. (Be aware: Honey should not be given to babies under 1 year old).
- Vapour rubs are very popular and effective treatment. You can rub baby’s chest and upper back with warming creams such as Vicks VapoRub Soothing Chest Rub Cough.
- Same goal will be reached with mustard plasters, oily homemade compresses with mustard, honey or alcohol, cupping. They will help your baby’s breathing and will be very effective especially before putting your little one to sleep. (Be aware: Some babies can be allergic to smelly ointments).
- Simple massage of baby’s chest will be the best for little ones who do not learn how to cough yet.
- Steam inhalation can also help relieve coughing. You can sit with the baby in the bathroom or in a steam room with a hot shower running.
- More sleep and resting will help the baby to fight off viruses more quickly.
- Do not forget vitamin D drops to support immune system too.
When Should we Go to the Doctor?
Although cough may go without any serious treatment, sometimes it can develop into more serious infection, such as, an ear infection, chest infection or pneumonia.
You should show your baby to the doctor if any of the following symptoms develop:
- Wheezing, fast breathing, noisy breathing or difficulty with breathing.
- Being unable to swallow, excessive drooling.
- Unusual irritability or persistent crying, baby is not taking feeds.
- A rash.
- Higher than 38C temperatures.
- A cough persists for longer than 3-4 days.
What is the Use of Cough Medicine?
All cough medicines can be divided into three main groups:
- Mucolytics that make the mucus less thick and sticky and easier to cough up. They are usually prescribed for long-term cough and should be taken regularly.
- Intensifying cough remedies to bring out with mucus products of infection.
- Calming down and reducing activity of the cough center.
Most of the cough remedies contain various ingredients, such as paracetamol, decongestants, antihistamines and sedatives, which may have side effects on your baby. They may cause strong allergic reactions, problems with sleeping or hallucinations. And there is no strong evidence that cough remedies actually work faster than other treatment.
Cough is a very difficult symptom to control, if you doubt any success while fighting with the cough, take your baby to the doctor.