Common causes of cough in children include the cold and flu as well as more serious conditions, such as the croup, asthma, and bronchiolitis in very young children. Usually, cough in children will clear up on its own as the condition gets better. If the cough persists for several weeks or occurs with certain other symptoms, such as a high fever or trouble breathing, the child should be taken to the doctor.
Many cases of cough in children are a result of a child recovering from the common cold. Although a cold may be an unpleasant experience for a child, it is usually not a cause for alarm. Coughing helps the child remove irritants from the throat and lungs. It may take up to three weeks for a child to get over a cough caused by a cold, especially if the child has several colds in a row, which is likely to happen in young children.
A small study revealed that bronchitis caused by bacteria is one of the main causes of persistent cough in children less than 10 years of age. Bronchitis often follows a cold or other upper respiratory infection. The cough caused by bronchitis usually starts out as a dry cough but turns into a productive, or wet, cough as the disease progresses. It can be difficult to tell if the cough is productive in children, because they occasionally swallow the mucus after coughing it up.
Bronchiolitis, an infection of the bronchioles, which are smaller airways attached to the bronchi, usually happens to children less than six months of age and is another cause of cough in children. It usually affects very young children because their bronchiloles are very small and can become blocked more easily than an older child's or an adult's. Bronchiolitis can clear up on its own, particularly in healthy infants. Babies who were premature or have other health problems may need to go to the hospital, particularly if their skin takes on a blueish cast or if they struggle to breathe.
The croup is another common cause of cough in children. When a child has croup, the windpipe and voice box become swollen. Coughing due to croup usually occurs at night and tends to sound like a bark. The cough can be accompanied by trouble breathing and stridor, or a musical sound as the child breathes. Croup may require hospitalization, but can often be treated by sitting with the child in a warm, moist setting.