Contents At A Glance
Baby Cough Can Quickly Become More Serious
How can a baby’s simple cold and cough quickly develop into a life threatening illness?
The reason a baby’s cough can sometimes quickly progress into a more serious problem is because the airway passages in a baby’s respiratory system are quite small and narrow and any infection that causes inflammation and swelling of these passageways can have devastating consequences.
Baby coughing can be brought on by many different causes. Although many times a baby cough is simply due to a common cold, never assume that an infant with a bad cough and a fever just has a cold. Some coughs in babies can indicate a potentially serious condition.
Baby Cough Tips
Infants Under 4 Months Of Age
Babies younger than 4 months do not usually have a cough.
Anytime an infant under the age of 4 months is experiencing a significant amount of coughing it is important to have the pediatrician take a look at the baby.
At this early age a cough can quickly develop into a more serious condition.
Steps To Assess A Baby Cough
The first and most important step to take when your baby is coughing is to determine what type of cough the baby has and if medical attention is needed. Dr. Jim Sears of The Doctors TV discusses when to be concerned about a baby cough.
The information below has been included to help you assess your baby’s cough.
How often is the baby coughing? - Regardless of how a cough sounds, if a baby is coughing every minute or two or every few seconds then you should call the doctor.
Does the baby have long spells of coughing where they lose their breath? - This is a key symptom of pertussis (whooping cough) and the baby should be checked by a doctor right away to confirm or rule out a possible case of whooping cough.
What does the cough sound like:
Barking Cough – This most likely means the baby has croup. Call the doctor if there are any indications of breathing difficulty or if the baby is less than four months of age.
Dry or Scratchy Sounding – Dry cough can have a number of causes, one of which is the second stage whooping cough. Take the baby to the doctor if you suspect whooping cough / pertussis because a baby’s respiratory system is very vulnerable to whooping cough.
Wet or Rattly Sounding – Watch the baby closely and call the doctor if there are any other accompanying symptoms such as fever or respiratory distress. Also call the doctor if the baby is under four months of age and has a wet or rattly cough.
Is the baby experiencing any of the following signs of respiratory distress:
Symptoms of respiratory distress are cause for an immediate call to the doctor or emergency care.
- More than 40 breaths per minute
- Labored breathing:
- Making a little grunting sound with each breath
- Using the abdomen to get the air out of the lungs with every breath
- Skin pulling at the base of the neck or between the ribs
- Nose flaring
- Stridor (a high pitched sound when taking a breath)
- Head bobbing – See an example of a baby with respiratory distress exhibiting head bobbing in the video below:
Are any of the following symptoms present? If so, call the doctor.
- High Fever (102 or higher)
- Is the baby acting weak or lethargic?
In the video below Pediatrician Dr. David Hill shares valuable information on baby cough conditions, including how to identify and treat various causes of baby coughs.
Causes of Cough in Infants Under 12 Months Old
Below is a list of some of the most common causes of baby cough followed by a few informational videos on some of these conditions.
- Common Cold - If cold symptoms don’t get better in 10 to 14 days it may be an indication of a bacterial infection or something more serious and it’s time to call the doctor.
- Whooping Cough / Pertussis - A severe cough lasting up to 30 seconds followed by a distinctive whooping sound. Contact the pediatrician any time pertussis is suspected in a baby.
- Croup - A barking cough caused by swollen vocal chords and airways which is usually worse at night. Croup typically does not require medical treatment but it’s a good idea to contact your doctor because in babies there are occasions when serious complications can arise from croup.
- Pneumonia – A baby may develop pneumonia after a lengthy cold. Pneumonia can be dangerous in babies, so contact your pediatrician if cold & cough symptoms continue longer than 3 weeks.
- Asthma - Asthma in babies can include some or all of the following symptoms: 1) Coughing; 2) Wheezing; and/or, 3) Difficulty Breathing. It is important to see your doctor if your baby has been having any of these symptoms for more than 2 to 3 weeks so the doctor can assess what the root cause is.
- Sinus Infection / Sinusitis – A cold & cough lasting longer than 3 weeks may progress into a case of sinusitis, a sinus infection, in which baby will continue with cold symptoms with a daytime cough that may be worse at night. Sinusitis lasts 10 to 14 days.
- Bronchitis – A viral infection of the upper airway often including coughing, basically the same thing as a cold.
- Bronchiolitis – A viral infection which affects bronchioles (the tiny bronchial tubes) which can be life threatening to infants, especially under four months of age.
- RSV or Respiratory Syncytial Virus – This is the same as bronchiolitis which is a viral infection which is very dangerous in a young infant and requires urgent medical attention.
Informational Video on: Whooping Cough / Pertussis
Informational Video on: Croup Cough
Informational Video on: Baby Asthma
Informational Video on: Baby Bronchitis & Bronchiolitis
Informational Video on: RSV
Home Remedies for Baby Cough
After you have confirmed what’s causing your baby’s cough and you have talked to your pediatrician, try a baby cough remedy you can give at home to help relieve the cough symptoms the baby is experiencing.
Adding moisture to the air that the baby is breathing is a quite effective baby cough remedy in helping a baby’s dry cough. The first two home baby cough remedies listed here are remedies that do just that — add moisture to the air. These methods have stood the test of time and remain a favorite choice of treatment by doctors and parents alike.
To help a baby with a dry cough, this steam room baby cough remedy has stood the test of time. Sit with the baby in a steamy bathroom while running hot water in the shower or bathtub for about 15 minutes.
Vaporizer / Humidifier
Adding moisture by utilizing a vaporizer or humidifier is another excellent option for a baby or infant cough remedy. Most doctors recommend using a cool mist humidifier or vaporizer.
Chest Physical Therapy / Chest Percussion Of Upper Lobes
Dr. Jim Sears, a pediatrician with The Doctors TV program demonstrates a technique he calls chest physical therapy, a method in which he cups his hand and gently claps on the baby’s back. This helps to loosen phlegm to help the baby cough it out. In another segment Dr. Sears recommends doing this while sitting with the baby in a steamy bathroom.
Watch demonstration of Chest Physical Therapy in video below at the 2:45 point.
Natural Homeopathic Cough Syrup For Babies Over 6-Months-Old
Over the counter cough medicine has been determined to no longer be safe for children under the age of 4 years old. But there are natural homeopathic cough syrups that are safe to use for babies 6 months of age or older. In the video above Dr. Sears of The Doctors TV recommends a brand of natural cough syrup called Hyland’s Baby Cough Syrup.
Homemade Honey Cough Syrup For Babies Over 1-Year-Old
Squeeze about 4 to 6 drops of juice from a thin slice of a fresh lemon into a half teaspoon of honey and mix together. Give as a cough syrup.
Warm Milk & Honey Cough Remedy For Babies Over 1-Year-Old
Heat 1/4 cup milk until it is warm but not hot and mix in 1/2 tablespoon honey.
Karo Syrup Instead Of Honey For Infants Younger Than 6-Months-Old
Check with your pediatrician first, but many will recommend Karo Syrup as a substitute in place of honey in order to relieve coughing for infants under 6 months of age.
Baby Nasal Saline Spray / Drops For Cough Relief
Using a nasal saline solution will flush out mucus. Dr. Jim Sears of The Doctors TV recommends a brand called “Little Noses Baby Nasal Saline Spray/Drops.”
Baby Massage for Cough
Watch the following demonstration of baby massage techniques that help baby cough and colds. This baby massage can help soothe congestion and help your baby to relax. Helping your baby to stay calm is very helpful in reducing the amount of coughing.
Do not give honey to babies younger than 12 months as they are at risk of contracting infant botulism because their digestive tract is not yet fully developed.
Vaccinations For Pertussis/Whooping Cough
There is some debate over the safety of vaccines for babies but the majority of doctor opinion strongly recommends the pertussis vaccine. Doctors not only recommend that babies get this vaccine, but strongly recommend that adults who are around babies and young children also get the vaccine.
All too frequently adults are responsible for spreading pertussis to babies and children, often without even being aware that they even have pertussis. Adult symptoms of pertussis, or whooping cough, are typically very mild and sometimes even unnoticeable; however, whooping cough is a potentially dangerous disease for children, and especially so in babies.