A cough that persists for more than 4 weeks is considered chronic. While cough is a symptom of common respiratory infections, it usually clears up soon without causing much distress to the child. In some cases, the cough persists for a month or more, causing concern for the parents, classmates, and other people who regularly interact with the child.
Cough, when left untreated, can lead to the worsening of the underlying condition and create long-term complications. If your child has had a persistent cough for more than a month, then this article might offer some clues to the conditions that usually cause a chronic cough.
A cough is a natural reaction to an infection or blockage that irritates the passage from the lungs to the trachea, pharynx, larynx, or nasal passages. An acute cough that accompanies a cold or a respiratory virus clears up within a month. If the cough persists for longer than 4 weeks, it could mean a much more severe underlying issue.
Studies indicate that coughs caused by acute respiratory infections settle within 25 days in 90% of children. Therefore a cough that continues for more than a month is considered chronic and needs to be checked by a doctor.
According to surveys, chronic cough is relatively common, with the prevalence being high in children who live in areas with intense traffic. Some risk factors include children born before 37 weeks and with underlying medical conditions such as wheezing.
Here are some of the most common conditions that can lead to chronic cough in children:
If you notice that your child gets cough, itchy eyes, and a running nose at the same time of the year, it is a sign of a seasonal allergy. They could be allergic to pollen, spores, or microbial allergens in the air at specific months every year. Allergies caused by pets or moving to a new place can also cause a chronic cough.
There are hundreds of viruses that can cause an infection of the upper respiratory tract leading to a cold and chronic cough. Most children can get close to ten colds a year, and most of them last from five to seven days. Sometimes when children have back-to-back colds caused by different viruses, the cough can persist for more than a month.
Pertussis, a bacterial infection, is commonly known as whooping cough. It causes people to cough uncontrollably. Whooping cough is a serious infection that can be life-threatening to children. The excessive cough often causes the person to go out of breath and make a whooping sound when they inhale. Some cases of chronic cough in a toddler can be caused by this disease, especially in communities that are not vaccinated against it.
Sometimes chronic cough in a child with no other symptoms can be because of foreign objects stuck in the airway. The object could continue to irritate the airway causing continuous cough without secondary symptoms. The asymptomatic period can stretch for weeks before any complications such as pneumonia.
Asthma is often associated with wheezing and blocked airways that make breathing difficult. The condition can also present only as chronic cough in some children. If the child continues to cough even after falling asleep, it suggests chronic cough asthma children. This can happen because the cortisol levels decrease in the night leading to asthmatic bronchospasm.
Although acid reflux is accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms such as acidity, heartburn, and vomiting, a persistent dry cough can also be a symptom of the condition. Acid reflux by itself may not cause chronic cough but exacerbate an underlying upper respiratory tract infection and make the cough worse. Chronic cough associated with acid reflux is seen during daytime and when the child laughs excessively. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), also characterized by acid reflux, is a chronic cough in infants causes. GERD causes infants to gag, spit-up, and act fussy, along with chronic cough.
Aspiration is frequent coughing while the child is eating or drinking. One of the other tell-tale signs is coughing with a history of pneumonia caused by foods that pass into the lungs. These children might suffer from neurological conditions that cause decreased sensation in the upper airway. Therefore the food or drink passes more easily into the lungs.
Sinusitis is caused by the inflammation of the mucus lining of the sinus cavities. The symptoms can be persistent cough and thick yellow-green nasal discharges. In addition to chronic cough, it can also cause other symptoms such as bad breath, nasal drip, puffiness of the eyes, and low energy.
This type of cough remains long after the original cause of the cough has resolved. The sound is different, and the “honking” sound stops when the child is distracted.
Here are some of the frequently observed signs and symptoms of chronic cough in kids:
The diagnosis of chronic cough is done through observational procedures and tests. They are as follows:
Medical treatment for chronic cough involves treating the underlying condition that causes the cough.
If the chronic cough is caused by seasonal allergies and appears to be getting better over time, it is not a cause to be alarmed. However, if the cough is accompanied by thick green mucus, fever, and lethargy, it is crucial to call the doctor. Breathing difficulties and vomiting after vigorous coughs are also warning signs that should not be ignored.
Chronic cough can be a result of several underlying conditions. The treatment involves resolving the underlying condition or managing it to provide symptomatic relief. If the causes of chronic cough are seasonal allergies or infections, then it is possible to treat it at home. The sudden onset of the condition needs to be checked by a doctor.
This post was last modified on December 5, 2021 11:10 am
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