As a parent, there's nothing more frightening than taking care of your child when they're sick. But as helpless as you feel, it's important that you stay on top of their symptoms, making sure it doesn't develop into anything worse. Coughs can seem like a harmless side effect of a simple common cold, but oftentimes, they accompany sicknesses that are anything but simple, like whooping cough, croup, or influenza. Luckily, there are a few signs you should get your kid's cough checked out, making the decision to take them to the doctor a bit easier. Whether you're the type of parent who avoids unnecessary doctors visits at all costs, or the kind who takes your kid in for every symptom they exhibit, it's important to know the difference between a serious cough and a not-so-serious cough.
To make matters more difficult, coughs come in many forms — from wet, to dry, and from persistent to activity induced — making it even harder to tell the difference between a harmless cough that will disappear on its own and one that merits a trip to the doctor's office for an antibiotic or more serious medical treatment. Obviously, when it comes to your child's health, caution is the best policy, so if they exhibit any of the signs below (or even if they don't), take them in right away.
1. Their Cough Sounds Like Barking
According to Kid's Health, "barky" coughs are generally caused by swelling in the upper airways, and is usually diagnosed as croup (swelling of the larynx and trachea.) Although croup is generally viral, it can be caused by allergies or seasonal change in temperature, so it's worth taking them in.
2. They Develop Dry Coughing Every Time They're Active
Asthma is a tricky thing to diagnose, according to Dr. Sears's site, but exercise induced asthma is one of the many (and most common) forms it can take. If you notice your, otherwise healthy, child coughing whenever they get their heart rate up, it's definitely recommended that you take them in.
3. They Have A Hoarse Cough, Muscle Ache, And High Fever
If your child has a hoarse cough accompanied with symptoms like muscle ache, loss of appetite, and high fever, according to the CDC you should take them in because it may be Influenza.
4. They Have A Wheezing Cough And Difficulty Breathing
According to the Women's and Children's Health Network, a wheezing cough where your child has difficulty breathing, often with a stuffy nose, sneezing or mild fever, is a sign your child has bronchitis or RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). Infants showing these symptoms should be taken to the doctor (or in severe cases, the emergency room) immediately, as the sickness can be fatal. However, in more mild cases, the child won't require treatment. It's generally best to err on the side of caution, though, so taking them in will never hurt.
5. They Have Severe Coughing Fits And Make A "Whooping" Sound
If your child has had a cold for a few days and starts to have severe coughing fits, sometimes with up to 20 coughs in a breath, according to Parents, your child may have developed whooping cough. Symptoms like breathlessness, a strange whooping sound, along with other common cold symptoms are a sure sign you should take your kiddo in. If your child is under six months old, they'll need to be hospitalized. Older children may handle the infection better, with the aid of an antibiotic, but they'll need to see a doctor nonetheless.
6. Their Cough Lasts Longer Than Three Weeks
Although that may seem like a long time for a cough to linger, Kid's Health noted that some coughs are especially persistent. If your child isn't exhibiting other symptoms, and the cough goes away on its own, there's no cause for alarm. However, if it lasts for longer than three weeks, taking them to the doctor will ensure there's no lingering infection.
7. Your Infant Has Been Coughing For More Than A Few Hours
Newborns require extra attention, especially when it comes to coughs. If your baby (under three months) has been coughing for more than a few hours and isn't improving, Kid's Health instructed parents to them in to see their health care provider.