A cough in children is a reflex to clear the airway of mucus and irritants. Most are not serious and tend to be self limiting.
Cough in children can be particularly stressful for parents. The child can be tired out from the cough, poor sleep may be an issue and this affects the parents’ sleep as well. Cough in children may also bar them from school or play groups for fear that the cough may spread to other children.
Cough in children can be described as a “dry cough”. This is usually caused by an itchy throat and there is little phlegm.
On the other hand, s chesty cough in children means that there is phlegm in the airway. They may help to clear the airways.
Causes of Cough in Children
Short Term Cough in children
An upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) from a common cold to a flu can cause cough in children. This typically starts off with a viral infection with lethargy, runny nose, itchy throat, cough and fever. Later if persistent, bacteria infection may set in.
Laryngitis, sinusitis, whooping cough are examples of URTI causes of cough in children.
Lower respiratory causes of cough in children are bronchiolitis, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Allergic Rhinitis triggers a post nasal drip and itch in the throat and this can result in cough in children.
Asthma likewise can produce cough in children.
Irritants such as inhaled dust or smoke can cause cough in children.
Persistent cough in children
- This usually refers to cough in children lasting more than 3 weeks.
- The causes include long term respiratory tract infection such as bronchitis.
- Asthma can also cause long term cough in children.
- Allergy and persistent post nasal drip from sinus infection can cause persistent cough in children.
- Gastric reflux can be a trigger in persistent cough in children.
- Foreign body in the nose or lungs can occasionally present as cough in children
- Infective cough tends to be more productive of phlegm presenting as cough in children.
What to do?
If the cough in children is longer than a few days or is associated with high fever or significant symptoms, the child should see a doctor for cough. In the early stages one can see a family doctor for cough. The family doctor can assess if the cough is significant and can start on treatment depending on the cause.
If the doctor for cough thinks that the symptoms warrants or if the cough is persistent, he may refer to a chronic cough specialist in Singapore.
Who is the Chronic Cough Specialist in Singapore?
The doctor for cough is generally a paediatrician, a respiratory physicians or the ENT doctor.
The ENT doctors see both adults and children. Many patients sees the ENT doctor for nose and cough symptoms which make them suitable as doctor for cough. The ENT chronic cough specialist will have to take a detailed history, performed endoscopy of the nose to determine if there is allergy or infection of the sinus. Allergy tests and radiological investigations may be required by the chronic cough specialists to determine the underlying cause.
Chronic cough should not be left untreated as they can be very distressing to the individual and the family. In children, persistent cough may prevent them from attending child care or school for fear that they may be contagious. Do seek advice from the doctor for cough or chronic cough specialist if the cough is persistent.