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Cough (Baby and infant)
Cough (Baby and infant)


Cough (Baby and Infant)
Respiratory system
A cough is a protective mechanism that the body uses to clear the airways of an obstruction such as a foreign object, dust, smoke, irritants or mucus. A cough may also be due to inflammation of the upper airway caused by a viral infection such as a cold, influenza or bronchiolitis, or a symptom of other diseases that affect the lungs such as asthma or whooping cough.
Coughing occurs to clear something from the airways. Foreign objects, dust, smoke, irritants, mucus or particles of food stimulate receptors in the airways that send signals to the brain that start the coughing reflex. When there is a viral infection such as cold, it is the inflammation of the airways and the presence of mucus running down the back of the nose onto the throat, which causes the cough. When the airways are inflamed, they become swollen and make breathing more difficult. The receptors in the airways react as if there is an obstruction, signalling a cough reflex. In rare cases, a cough may be a symptom of more serious diseases such as pneumonia.
If your baby or infant has a cold you may hear a wheeze when your child breathes, there may be a rattling sound from the mucus on your child's chest and there may be frequent bouts of coughing. Often green mucus will run from the nose and your child may have a temperature.

If your baby or infant is bothered by dust, smoke or a foreign object, the coughing may occur suddenly and without any other signs. Always check your baby or infant if this occurs to make sure that he or she is not choking on something that has been put in the mouth.
Soothing cough medicines containing glycerin, honey or lemon may help loosen mucus and ease coughing. They may also help relieve a dry, tickling cough.

Vapour rubs applied to the baby's or infant's clothing will help clear any nasal congestion.
When to consult your pharmacist
Many of the traditional cough and cold medicines are no longer supplied from supermarkets or other non-pharmacy outlets and are available only from a local pharmacy following a review of the safety of the use of these medicines in children.

Cough and cold remedies containing antihistamines, antitussives, expectorants or decongestants are not suitable for children under 6 years of age. Children under 6 years of age suffering from a cough or a cold may be given paediatric formulations of medicines containing paracetamol or ibuprofen to lower a raised temperature, or if they have a cough may be given soothing cough medicines containing glycerin, honey or lemon.

If your baby has difficulty in feeding because of a blocked nose, your pharmacist will be able to provide nose drops containing saline that will help. Vapour rubs and inhalant decongestants to be applied to a baby's clothing are also available from pharmacies.

Always tell your pharmacist your baby's or infant's age, so the pharmacist is able to recommend the most suitable product. Describe your child's symptoms. If your pharmacist thinks your baby or infant has a secondary chest infection that may require an antibiotic, you will be advised to go to your doctor.
When to consult your doctor
You should see your doctor if your baby or infants has a persistent, high temperature, a painful cough, wheezing, shortness of breath, trouble swallowing or trouble feeding.
Living with a cough
If your baby's or infant's cough is caused by a cold or influenza, you can normally expect the cough to go within a week. During this time, give your child plenty of fluids to drink to help soothe the cough. Cough medicines, as described above, can also be given if considered necessary.

Try to avoid irritants and allergens that can make your child's cough worse. Examples of irritants include paint fumes, perfumes and air fresheners. Examples of allergens include dust, animal fur, mould, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers. A room humidifier or steam vaporiser may help relieve an irritated throat and loosen mucus.

Do not smoke or allow other people to smoke in the presence of your child. In addition to the smoke irritating your child's cough, passive smoking increases the risk of your child developing heart and respiratory problems later in life.

If your infant suffers from asthma that requires continuous or repeated use of steroids, or has been admitted to hospital because of a previous asthma attack, go to see your doctor at the first signs of a cough. Make sure that your child takes any prescribed antibiotics as directed and ensure that your child has adequate supplies of reliever and preventer inhalers, and has the influenza vaccine each year.
Useful Tips
  • Keep your child in a warm room
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke near your child
  • Give your child plenty of fluids

Reviewed on 22 June 2010

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