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Baby coughing? What you need to know.

Baby coughing? What you need to know.

When you’re a new parent, it’s quite normal to be constantly worried about your baby’s health.  

But what should you do when your baby develops a cough? 

Lifestyle insight
Reading time: 10 minutes

Babies cough for many reasons, most often from the common cold. Very young children are more prone to cold viruses as they haven't yet developed the antibodies to fight them.

But it’s quite normal for children to cough around 11 times per day even when they’re not sick.1 

This article will explain why your baby may be coughing and how to help them feel better. Remember, if you have serious concerns, it’s best to see your health practitioner.  

How to tell if your baby’s cough is serious 

In most cases, a baby’s cough is only short-lived and isn’t something to be alarmed about.  

But if the coughing continues, or your baby has any of the following symptoms, seek help from a health professional immediately.2  

  •     Nonstop bouts of coughing  
  •     Struggling to breathe and/or shortness of breath 

  •     Unable to cry properly due to tight breathing  

  •     Ribs heaving or “sucking in” with each breath (this is called retractions) 

  •     Breathing noisily or wheezing  

  •     Breathing more quickly than usual  

  •     Bluish tinge in the lips or face 

  •     A temperature over 38°C  

  •     Coughing up blood  

  •     Difficulty swallowing 

  •     Struggling to open their mouth properly  

  •     Swelling of the tonsils  

  •     Your child is under 3 months old 

You should also seek help immediately if your child’s cough: 

  •     Lasts more than eight weeks  

  •     Gets worse rather than better after three weeks 

  •     Is accompanied by night sweats or weight loss 

How long can a baby's cough last for? 

In babies, the most common cause of a cough is a viral upper respiratory tract infection, such as a cold. This will be accompanied by other cold symptoms such as a blocked or runny nose, high temperature, and watery eyes. There may also be fever, lethargy and lack of appetite.3  

Colds last around one to two weeks and usually resolve on their own.  

A chesty cough can be a symptom of a chest infection, which also may result from the common cold. A chesty cough is productive, which means your child is coughing up mucus (usually yellow or green in colour).4 In babies, a chesty cough may last longer than other cold symptoms but will go away within three to four weeks.   

Irritation of the airways due to tobacco smoke, paint fumes, dust, or other pollutants can also cause coughing. The cough will usually stop when the irritant is removed. 

Gastroesophageal reflux can also lead to coughing, along with noisy breathing and vomiting. 

Reflux is common in babies due to their liquid diet and spending most of their time lying down. It will usually pass as the child grows.  

Wheezing, gasping, choking, or gagging could indicate asthma, allergies, or another respiratory condition. In these cases, it’s best to see your paediatrician. 

Will a cough go away on its own? 

Depending on the cause, a baby’s cough will usually go away on its own within a few days or weeks. Rest, fluids, and lots of cuddles will help them on the road to recovery.  

As long as your baby is feeding and breathing normally, their cough isn’t anything to worry about.  

When should I take my baby to the doctor for a cough? 

Seek medical help if your child: 

  •     Is under three months old with a temperature over 38°C 

  •     Is three to six months old with a temperature over 39°C 

  •     Struggling to swallow, drooling, or unable to feed properly  

  •     Developing other symptoms such as a rash, fever, earache, or swollen glands 

  •     Has a cough that has lasted for more than 10 days and producing mucus that is green, brown, or yellow in colour 

  •     Has a rash that does not fade when pressed, a headache or a stiff neck, and a high fever 

How can you help your baby’s cough? 

In the case of a cold or chest infection, you can help your baby recover by making sure they get plenty of rest and keeping them well-nourished. Offer extra feeds (breastfeeding or bottle) and limit their exposure to visitors or pets.  

Helping your baby sleep with a cough 

When fighting a virus, your baby will need all the rest they can get. Place them on their back for sleeping and make sure they can’t roll. Their mattress should be firm and completely flat, with a close-fitting sheet. Check that there are no irritants in the air, like cigarette smoke, dust, pet dander, or mould. A cool-mist humidifier in their room can help moisten the airways and reduce coughing. 

Should you wake a baby if they are coughing? 

It’s common for babies to cough in their sleep when they have a cold. This is usually caused by a post-nasal drip, in which mucus drains down the throat and triggers the cough reflex. If they are breathing normally, there’s no need to wake them.  

Remedies and medicines for children with a chesty cough 

Here are a few things you can do to help relieve your child’s cough symptoms.  

  •     Keep them hydrated. Juices, soups, and water will help keep the airways moist.  

  •     Sit with your child in a steamy shower or bathroom. The moisture will help ease their coughing and soothe a sore chest.  

  •     For older children, elevating their pillow or head of the bed can help ease congestion.  

  •     When appropriate, a cough formula can help with clearing mucus and relieving inflammation.   

    EA 7575®

One of the most popular remedies for children with a chesty cough is a cough syrup made with the ivy leaf extract EA 575®. This extract is carefully obtained from the leaves of the ivy plant Hedera helix and undergoes a patented extraction process. EA 575® has been shown in numerous clinical trials to help relieve chesty coughs in children in five ways.

It loosens and clears mucus in the chest so that it's easier to “cough up” mucus, then soothes the airways to make breathing easier. EA 575® also helps to reduce inflammation so that kids feel better faster. EA 575® has been proven to help relieve chesty cough relief in more than 65,000 patients, including children* and adults. 

Cough formulas should not be used in children under 2 years without medical advice. 

Maintaining your family routine when your baby has a cough  

While your baby is getting over their cough, make sure other family members are looking after themselves, too. Basic hygiene rules like washing hands and covering their mouths when coughing will help limit the spread of germs. It’s also a good idea to ask would-be visitors to stay away until your baby’s symptoms have cleared.  

Parent self-care tips 

Parents need care, too! Make sure you’re getting enough rest and eating well. There’s no harm in asking family or friends to look after your child for a few hours every now and then so you can take time out for yourself. This is when you can get some exercise, go out for lunch, or just relax with Netflix or a book. 

It’s also helpful to join a local parent's group or online - connecting with others is invaluable. Other parents are also a great source of advice and support, especially when your child is unwell. 

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