Your schoolchild’s coughs

Advice on what medicines to give, when to take your child to the doctor and whether your child needs to stay off school after catching a cough

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What causes a cough?

Coughs are caused by viruses, which infect the nose and throat and can be spread via direct and indirect contact, so expect your schoolchild to come home coughing and sneezing. An average primary schoolchild has between three and eights coughs a year.

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Your schoolchild’s cough may be worse at night and they will most likely have a runny nose and a cold, too. Most coughs will clear up in around two weeks.

What medicine can you give your schoolchild?

If your child is feeling ill you can give them paracetamol or ibuprofen, but make sure you read the packet first.

If you’re unsure whether to give your child over-the-counter cough remedies, always speak to your doctor first.

Do you need to take your schoolchild to the doctor?

You need to take your child to the doctor if their cough persists for longer than three to four weeks.

Also take your child to your doctor if they have a consistent high temperature, wheezing, chest pains or drowsiness.

If your child complains of earache they may have an ear infection, so tell your doctor who will be able to prescribe antibiotics if they are needed.

Should your child go to school when they have a cough?

It’s not obligatory for your schoolchild to stay home from school if they have a minor cough so use your own judgment to decide whether they’re well enough to attend.If your child has a temperature or drowsiness accompanying their cold, they should stay home for at least 24 hours and see your doctor. Remember to call your child’s school to let them know if your child isn’t going to attend.

If your child has a severe, long-lasting cough, ask your doctor whether your child should be going to school or not.

Make sure your child knows to cough either into a tissue or into their hand and that they need to wash their hands regularly with soap so as not to spread the virus.

Is there anything you can do to help your child feel better?

Your child needs plenty of rest, so it may be a good idea to bring their bedtime forward when they’re under the weather.

Make sure your child has plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Also keep them hydrated with lots of water and fresh orange juice, which is full of Vitamin C to help boost the immune system. 

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What other infections may your child catch at school?

Other infections, like tonsillitisverrucaschickenpoximpetigoringwormear infectionsdiarrhoeavomitingmolluscum contagiusm and threadworms, are common for your child to catch during school.

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