My Baby Has A Cough, What Now? How To Decode It

by | September 1, 2018

Hear wheezing, hacking, or barking in your infant’s cough? Find out what’s normal when your baby has a cough and what could be a symptom of something more serious.

Listening when your baby has a cough can and is stressful, they can’t tell you what is wrong, and you have no way of knowing if it’s just the dust in the air, or requires an immediate trip to the doctors.

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Coughs are the body’s way of protecting itself, explains Howard Balbi, MD, director of pediatric infectious diseases at Nassau County Medical Center in East Meadow, New York to Parents.com. Coughing serves as the method the body uses to keep the airways clear, ridding the throat of phlegm, postnasal drip (nasal mucus that drips down the back of the throat), or a lodged piece of food. There are two kinds of coughs that serve this purpose:

  • Dry cough: This occurs when a baby has a cold or allergies. It helps clear postnasal drip or irritation from a sore throat.
  • Wet cough: This results from a respiratory illness accompanying a bacterial infection. This causes phlegm or mucus (which contains white blood cells to help fight germs) to form in baby’s airways.

As cough and cold medicines are not recommended for children under the age of six, it leaves parents in a stressful situation about how to effectively treat an illness, if there is one when your baby has a cough.

Different Types of Coughs

Dry Hacking

Usually a common cold or small bug they’ve picked up. It’s usually accompanied by a slight fever or running nose. 

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Loud Barking Cough

This could be a sign that your baby has croup, which is a viral infection. Home treatments are usually fine, but you should see a doctor if it hasn’t cleared up in three or more days. 

Wet and Phlegmy Cough

This can be a sign of  pneumonia, which must be treated by a physician immediately. Your baby may show other signs of being extremely tired, and they could vomit while in a coughing fit. 

Loud Whoops

This will be easy to know if you ever hear it and is a sign of whooping cough. Your baby will have fits brought on of whooping cough and usually is not accompanied by other symptoms. As this was once an eradicated disease, it has been slowly making a come-back. If you suspect your baby is suffering from whooping cough, call 911 immediately. By the time the coughing fits develop, the infant must be hospitalized so they can receive oxygen during coughing spells, according to Ruffin Franklin, M.D., of Capitol Pediatrics and Adolescent Center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

What do you do when your baby has a cough? Let us know in the comments.

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Julie Nealon

Associate Editor, New York USA | Contactable via [email protected]

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