Kids with a cough
The information contained in this page has been obtained from the Royal Children’s Hospital Guidelines 2019.
Cough is a very common problem for children. The most common cause of cough is a respiratory tract infection, such as a cold. Young children usually have six to 12 respiratory tract infections per year, usually caused by viruses.
Antibiotics don't help with coughs caused by viruses. Sometimes, children may cough for many weeks after a viral infection – this is called a post-viral cough and, again, antibiotics are usually no help.
Occasionally a cough may be caused by a bacterial infection in the throat or chest. In these cases, antibiotics may be prescribed by your doctor to treat a bacterial infection.
When to see a doctor
If your child seems unwell and you are concerned, it is a good idea to take them to your GP. The doctor will check your child for other causes of cough.
If your child has a high fever, difficulty breathing, is not drinking very much or has fewer wet nappies than usual, take them to see the GP.
Some post-viral coughs may be present for many weeks after your child has recovered from the respiratory tract infection, for example, after bronchiolitis. This is normal. If the cough lasts for many weeks and you are worried, your GP may refer you to a paediatrician (specialist children's doctor).
Key points to remember
Cough is a very common problem for children, and is usually caused by respiratory tract infections.
Most young children get respiratory tract infections six to 12 times a year.
Most coughs don't require treatment, and will not respond to antibiotics.
Cough medicines are of no proven benefit and may be harmful to children under the age of six years.
Honey may be helpful, but should only be used in children over 12 months old.
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