If your child suddenly started coughing, would you be able to tell if he/she needed immediate medical attention? While most coughs eventually pass without any problems, others are much more serious. Many parents have comforted a coughing child at some point in their lives, and more than likely their little munchkin was suffering from a respiratory illness like a cold or flu. However, in many cases, your child’s cough may be an indication of a more severe condition such as croup, RSV, or whooping cough. Depending on which one of these illnesses your child has, his/her cough can clear up within a few days or several months with the appropriate treatment.
How Do You Know If Your Child Has Croup?
Although croup, RSV, and whooping cough can all have severe symptoms, croup may be the lesser of the three evils as it is often times a mild condition. Typically worse in the fall or winter, this common respiratory illness targets children 6 months to 3 years old.
Some possible symptoms of Croup are:
- Swelling of the vocal cords
- Running nose
- Barking cough
If you notice continuous high pitch noises resembling a seal during the middle of the night, it’s a good possibility that your child has croup.
Fortunately, when you give your child a single dose of dexamethasone, the inner seal within your kiddo will more than likely disappear within a few days. Most doctors also recommend that you follow-up with at home treatments that include the following activities:
- Encouraging plenty of fluids
- Providing children six months and older with medications like Tylenol and Motrin to eliminate fever
- Placing a humidifier in your child’s bedroom for calming
- Rolling the windows down on car rides as cold air can soothe symptoms
Is Your Child’s Cough A Sign Of RSV?
Often called respiratory syncytial virus, RSV can be a more serious childhood illness that can cause cough. The condition typically occurs in children two years and younger.
The telltale signs of this respiratory illness are:
- Running nose
- Labored breathing
- Wet and forceful cough
The best way to protect your children from this cough is to give them a prescribed medication called Synagis. There are also some things you can do at home to ease your child’s symptoms. A great at home treatment may include the following
- Making sure your child stays properly hydrated and nourished
- Buying prescribed saline nasal drops to clear congestion
- Getting rid of a high fever with Tylenol or Motrin
In some cases, infected children may need supplemental oxygen to maintain a healthy oxygen level. If your child’s oxygen level drops, he/she will need to be hospitalized immediately.
Children may suffer from this illness for a week, but even after some of the symptoms disappear, the annoying cough may still linger.
Can You Spot The Symptoms Of Whooping Cough?
Since whooping cough has been responsible for over 295,000 childhood deaths, this respiratory illness is definitely the most serious. Also known as pertussis, this upper respiratory tract infection causes many severe coughing spells in young children.
Along with a cough that sounds similar to someone gasping for breath, other symptoms of this illness include:
- Running nose
These are some general symptoms of whooping cough, but the symptoms can vary depending on the stage. The three stages to this severe childhood illness are
- Catarrhal Stage: During this stage, your child may experience symptoms congruent with a mild cold or respiratory infection for one to two weeks. These symptoms can include lethargy, consistent cough, and runny nose.
- Paroxysmal Stage: For six to eight weeks, you will begin to notice your child coughing so hard that he/she eventually vomits. Sometimes young children can experience a low heart rate, labored breathing, and poor eating habits.
- Convalescent Stage: At this stage, the coughing should begin to fade, but your child is prone to develop a respiratory complication if another infection becomes present.
Young children who are suffering from pertussis should be treated with antibiotics immediately. In order to decrease the chances of catching whooping cough, kids who are between the ages of 11 and 18 should receive a second round of the tetanus, diphtheria, acellular pertussis Tdap shot. Children should receive their first Tdap shot when they are infants. When infants do not complete the vaccination series, they are at risk of serious complications, hospitalization, and even death.
If you believe that your child’s cough might be croup, RSV, or whooping cough, it’s important that you take him/her to a pediatrician immediately. With the proper prescribed medication and at home treatment, your child’s cough will eventually clear up.
When in doubt, always speak to a doctor.
Learn more about treating Croup in this video: