One of the most common reasons for a doctor visit by toddler age children is a cough. The good news is that coughs in children are most often symptoms of upper respiratory viruses such as the common cold and are usually self limiting; only lasting 7-10 days. While there are certainly more serious causes to pediatric cough we will take a look at treatment for a simple cough related to allergies and colds.
The first thing to note is that coughs are beneficial. They are a physiological response to airway irritation which in the case of cold and allergies is most often the build-up of mucus or upper respiratory secretions that are swallowed (post nasal drip). Cough should not be eliminated completely but relieved with a safe, soothing remedy.
Recent studies have also indicated that cough and cold medicines for children under the age of two are not only ineffective but can cause serious side effects. Never give your toddler these medications without approval from your pediatrician.
Toddler Cough Related to Environmental Irritants and Allergies
Your child's cough may be a reaction to environmental irritants, including smoke, pollution, pollen, pet dander, dust mites, and mold. In these cases, the first treatment is to reduce exposure to these irritants. Continual exposure can lead to persistent cough and throat irritation as well as the risk of developing asthma.
It may be impossible to remove all irritants from your child's surroundings. To help lessen the adverse affects, use an air purifier in your home. They can help capture and remove airborne particles. Place the air cleaners in your child's sleeping and play areas.
Over-the-counter antihistamines such as Benadryl can help decrease mucus production in the nose, reducing the amount of mucus that drips down the back of the throat. Discuss with your pediatrician about the potential side effects of these products.
Toddler Cough Due to Mild Respiratory Illness
Toddlers and pre-school children can get up to 6-10 colds a year resulting in a lot of time spent coughing. A cough is a prominent symptom of the common cold as it is trying to expel extra mucus in the throat and lungs. Coughs can also linger after the cold has passed but in most cases will resolve on its own without further complications.
As an alternative to over-the-counter cough and cold medicines you can turn to good old fashioned honey to soothe a cough for children over the age of two. One half teaspoon of honey can provide the same soothing qualities as the store bought medications without the adverse and potentially harmful side effects. Do not however, give honey to children under the age of one.
Warm liquids such as decaffeinated tea can also soothe a cough. To make it more effective and appealing to a young child, add a bit of honey and lemon.
Place a cool-mist vaporizer in your toddlers' bedroom and play area. The moist air will soothe the airways and lessen irritation. Be sure to change the water frequently and to regularly clean the unit per the manufacturer's directions. The benefits of moist air can be also be achieved by having your child spend some time a steam-filled room, such as a bathroom.
Make sure your child is properly hydrated. Encourage the drinking of water throughout the day to keep airways moist and irritation- free. This will be particularly helpful for a dry, unproductive cough.
A toddler's simple cough in most cases will be more distressing on you than on your child. Studies have shown that a child's cough disturbs adult's sleep significantly more than the child's. It must be noted however that if your toddler's cough persists and is accompanied by persistent fever, labored breathing, or chronic mucous, this can indicate a more serious condition. To rule out pneumonia, croup, asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, pertussis, and other illnesses, visit your pediatrician if these additional symptoms exist.