Fort Worth, Texas,
10:24 AM

4 Signs To See A Doctor About Your Child's Cough

Doc Smitty on when parents should be concerned about a chronic cough

My child's been coughing all winter…all summer…all year…

Yep, it’s possible and it’s probably true. It might make you anxious. But, it might not mean there is anything to worry about.

Most children with a cough that lasts one week or less have viral infections which do not require antibiotics.

But what about when the cough lasts longer?

In a recent study of nearly 900 children seen for upper respiratory infections (most commonly cough and congestion), 3 out of 4 children continued to have cough at one week. We already know that, early in life, children have an average of 10-12 respiratory infections per year. Combine that with this new data and it’s possible your child could have some amount of cough nearly half of the time and still not have a significant underlying condition.

So, how long until you should be concerned?

In this study, 1 out of 4 children with upper respiratory infection continued to have cough at 4 weeks. Those children were evaluated by a pediatric pulmonologist and, at that point, were much more likely to be diagnosed with a bacterial infection or an underlying lung disease (such as asthma).

So, should you wait four weeks? Not necessarily. Consider these features which might mean that a trip to the doctor for cough is warranted:

1. Does the child have a history of respiratory illness such as asthma?

2. Is the child showing any signs of difficulty breathing?

3. Is the child drinking OK or otherwise acting sick with symptoms such as: fever, decreased activity or other symptoms?

4. Is the cough worsening after the first week?

If the answer to any of these questions is “Yes,” give your pediatrician a call.

Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.

Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club  and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.

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