What your child’s cough could mean

If your little one doesn’t have croup then they could have one of these instead…

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  • Bronchiolitis

    Bronchiolitis is a type of chest infection. Your little one is susceptible because he has smaller airways and his lungs and immune system aren’t fully developed yet. “It occurs when the smallest airways in the lungs, called the bronchioles, become infected and inflamed, leading to a build-up of mucus,” says Justin. “This makes it harder to breathe.”

    Signs and symptoms

    “Your child will probably have a stuffy nose, mild fever and a cough,” says Justin. “Only in severe cases – difficulty in breathing and a refusal or reduction in eating and drinking – will a child need to go to hospital.”

    Treat it

    “There’s no medicine commonly used to kill the virus, but in mild cases the infection usually clears up on its own,” says Justin.

  • Asthma

    Asthma is a condition that affects the airways,” says Angela Jones, asthma nurse specialist at Asthma UK (0800 121 6244). When a child with asthma comes into contact with something that irritates his airways – an asthma ‘trigger’– the airway muscles tighten so the airways become narrower and inflamed, making it hard to breathe. “But making a diagnosis of asthma in children under 5 is difficult,” says Angela. “They’re too young to perform lung function tests and there are many different causes of wheezing in childhood.”

    Signs and symptoms

    “Typical symptoms in the under-5s include coughing, especially at night and when exercising,” says Angela. “Wheezing or a whistling noise in the chest, getting short of breath, avoiding running and asking to be carried a lot could also be symptoms of asthma.” If you’re concerned that your baby or toddler may have asthma, see your GP,” adds Angela.

    Test it

    If your child is diagnosed with asthma, there are two main types of medicine:

    • Reliever inhaler – medicine that’s taken to immediately relieve symptoms, relaxing the muscles in his airway making it easier to breathe.
    • Preventer inhalercontrols the swelling and inflammation in the airways, stopping him being so sensitive and reducing the risk of severe attacks.
  • The common cold

    According to NHS Choices, children experience an average of three to eight colds a year as a child’s immune system is still developing.

    Signs and symptoms

    A stuffy, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and a sore throat.

    Treat it

    “Although there’s no cure for the common cold, you can relieve your little one’s symptoms with over-the-counter remedies. Paracetamol helps with a fever, but also make sure he’s topped up with plenty of fluids too,” says Justin.

Last updated on 1 August 2011

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