Baby coughs often sound worse than they actually are. You’ll come to recognise signs of normal coughs and sniffles over time but some symptoms suggest the problem could be more serious.
Common causes for baby coughs
A hot room
Like all of us, occasionally a baby will just get a ‘frog in the throat’, and usually a little cough will remedy this. If the air feels very dry (if you are in a warm room, the central heating is on, or you are staying somewhere in a hot dry climate) make sure you keep milk feeds up regularly, and offer cool boiled water in a sterile bottle or a suitably-aged baby feeding-cup if you want to, for relief between feeds.
Try to keep the room your child is in well-aired and make sure the air does not dry out. If the heating is on you can place a bowl of water on a radiator as the warmth will cause water droplets to moisten the air, or boil an electric kettle in the room and let the steam waft around for a few minutes. You can open the window to let in some fresh air but check the air coming in is fresh.
When your child is teething, he will produce more saliva. This might cause coughing bouts that last a few hours, days or even a couple of weeks, while the teething phase continues. Discover how to ease the pain and the cough.
Coughing can become a bit of a habit. All babies love a cuddle and we instinctively go to pick up our children when they cough and splutter. This is not a concern and will pass so don’t worry that it will develop into an annoying habit, but make sure your baby does get lots of loving attention through every day anyway!
Other possibilities include croup cough, which sounds particularly alarming but is not usually serious. Or bronchiolitis, a viral infection that causes inflammation of the respiratory passages, usually affecting babies between two and 24 months. A runny nose sometimes precedes a dry wheezy cough, and your baby may have difficulty feedingand breathing. If you suspect your baby’s got bronchiolitis but she’s otherwise well, you don’t need to do anything. Most babies stay at home,get wheezy and have a fast respiratory rate, but are otherwise fine. If your baby’s not feeding, not having wet nappies and breathing very fast,see your GP.
A persistent dry cough can sometimes signal that your child may have childhood asthma. This is on the rise, but still not hugely common. It will usually be accompanied by wheezy episodes after your child has been moving about (crawling or toddling, for example).
If you think this is a possibility then do raise it with your GP. But also try to keep your child’s bedroom free from too many dust-trapping items like shelves over their bed or cot, too many soft furnishings and so on. Make sure bedding, cuddly toys and clothes are clean, try to use non-bio products for washing, and choose hypo-allergenic materials when buying pillows and duvets, etc. Possibly think about having polished floorboards rather than carpet in your child’s room if a problem is diagnosed.
When a cough is a concern
Usually a cough is not a major worry but if a cough is accompanied by these other signs of illness then do consult your GP