Common respiratory tract irritations that can cause coughing include inflammation from infections, allergies and asthma, sinusitis and postnasal drip, and irritating chemicals. A common but often unrecognized cause of chronic cough is stomach acid reflux up into a part of the respiratory tract. Chronic cough also occurs with a wide range of other medical conditions that can irritate or affect the lungs or upper airway.
Treatment depends on the cause. Most coughs due to a common viral infection, such as a cold, only need home care (adequate fluids and other comfort measures). Cough suppressants are not recommended for kids.
Some infections, though, do require medical evaluation and treatment, such as bacterial infections, allergies, inhaled objects, or stomach acid reflux. Someone with a cough caused by an infection should not be around others until any fever is gone and the person is no longer considered contagious.
Coughing is usually not harmful in itself. But it can be distressing, especially when accompanied by other symptoms, and can disrupt activities and sleep. Intense or prolonged coughing may indicate a serious or ongoing problem, such as an inhaled object or other medical issue that needs prompt medical attention. Call your doctor if you have concerns.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|American Academy of Family Physicians This site, operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), provides information on family physicians and health care, a directory of family physicians, and resources on health conditions.|
|CDC: Flu (Influenza) The CDC's site has up-to-date information on flu outbreaks, immunizations, symptoms, prevention, and more.|
|Word! Cough A cough is a reflex that helps your body clear your throat and lungs.|
|Flu The flu is a virus that can make you sick for a week or longer. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|First Aid: Coughing Coughing is a healthy reflex that helps clear the airways. A severe or lingering cough requires medical treatment, but many coughs are caused by viruses that just need to run their course.|
|Croup Croup is characterized by a loud cough that resembles the barking of a seal and difficulty breathing. Most cases of croup are caused by viruses, are mild, and can be treated at home.|
|Bronchitis Bronchitis is an inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes. When a person has bronchitis, it may be harder for air to pass in and out of the lungs.|
|Coughing Coughs are a common symptom, but most aren't a sign of a serious condition. Learn about different coughs, how to help your child feel better, and when to call your doctor.|
|Flu Center The flu can make you sick for a week or more. Find out how to get protected from the influenza virus.|
|Flu Center Get the basics on how flu spreads and how to protect yourself.|
|Flu Center Learn all about protecting your family from the flu and what to do if your child gets flu-like symptoms.|
|Coping With Colds Most teens get between two and four colds each year. Read this article for the facts on chicken soup, cold medicines, and other ways to feel better.|
|Common Cold With kids getting up to eight colds a year, this contagious viral infection is the most common infectious disease in the United States and the top reason kids visit the doctor and miss school.|
|Babysitting: Dealing With Choking What should you do if a child you're babysitting is choking? Our tip sheet can help you be prepared.|
|Asthma Asthma can cause a person's airways to get swollen and irritated, making it hard to breathe. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|Asthma Basics With the right asthma management plan, families can learn to control symptoms and asthma flare-ups more independently, allowing kids to do just about anything they want.|
|Asthma Millions of teens in the United States have asthma, a lung condition that causes difficulty breathing. Here are the basics on symptoms, triggers, and treatments.|
|Choking Choking is an emergency - so it's important to recognize the signs of choking and know what to do if happens.|
|Choking Have you ever gotten a piece of food stuck in your throat or swallowed your drink "down the wrong pipe"? Find out more about choking and how to prevent it.|
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