Coughing is a normal protective reflex action to eliminate excess mucous or phlegm from the airways and make breathing easier. Although it is a good reflex, at the same time it can be a sign of respiratory conditions that may require medical treatment.
Types And Causes Of Toddler Cough
The type of cough may vary depending on the cause. Viral respiratory infections and asthma are the common causes of cough in toddlers. You may be able to distinguish the cause with the difference in the sound of the cough.
- Dry cough
Dry, hacking cough can be due to upper respiratory tract infections, such as common cold and influenza. Cough related to cold or flu can worsen during nighttime, especially if the room is warm and dry. Exposure to cigarette smoke, perfumes, other airway irritants, and asthma could trigger dry cough in toddlers. Dry cough could be a sign of lower respiratory tract infections like pneumonia and bronchitis.
- Barking cough
Barking cough, also known as croup cough, is a viral illness that leads to swelling of the upper trachea and windpipe, causing harsh, dry coughs. High-pitched sounds are heard during inspiration (inhalation) in toddlers with croup.
- Wet cough
Also called productive cough or chest cough, wet cough brings out mucus from the airways. Fluid and mucus in the lower respiratory tract could trigger the cough reflex in toddlers. Lower respiratory tract infections allergic bronchitis post upper respiratory infections are prominent causes of moist or wet cough in children.
- Whooping Cough
Whooping cough is a highly contagious bacterial infection caused by Bordetella pertussis bacteria. This infection is only spread from humans to humans through airborne mucus or saliva droplets. Toddlers who have pertussis will have coughing spells followed by a whooping sound when they breathe in and can lead to difficulty in breathing. If you notice whooping cough in your toddler, seek immediate medical care since it can be fatal if left untreated.
- Sudden cough
Toddlers may cough suddenly if they accidentally inhale food, parts of toys, and liquid into the airway. This may also happen if food or vomit gets stuck in their throat. Coughing for a few minutes usually clears the foreign body from the airways or throat. If your toddler continues to cough for several minutes or develops breathing problems, seek medical care.
- Nighttime cough
Postnasal drip can be the reason for nocturnal cough in toddlers. Congestion of the nose and draining of the sinuses to the throat can cause cough before bedtime but usually disappears while sleeping. Asthma coughs may also happen at nighttime due to increased airway sensitivity at night.
If your toddler has a persistent cough, wet or whooping cough or associated breathing difficulty, seek medical care for an exact diagnosis. Dry cough due to uncomplicated viral illnesses can be managed at home. However, if you are uncertain about the cough type, seek advice from a pediatrician.