Scott Cohen (Pediatrician, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center) gives expert video advice on: How do I treat my child's cough?; How do I know if my child's cough is a serious problem?; How do I relieve my child's croup? and more...
What causes my child to cough?
There are a lot of different causes of coughs, but the most common cause of coughs is usually just a virus. Viruses are very common and you would think it is your normal cold that causes your child to cough. Indeed coughs are very interesting. In children, coughs often sound very phlegmy, very rattily and very loud. You may even, if you're holding their back, feel their chest rattling. But what often is happening is that their nose is stuffy and it's running in the back of their throat. This post-nasal drip causes them to choke and cough, and that resonates throughout their chest cavity causing that very resonant cough. So often it's just an upper respiratory infection, not necessarily in the lungs. That's probably the most common cause of a cough.
What is "croup"?
Croup is also a viral infection, and is caused by a couple of different viruses. Croup produces a very specific type of cough which they call a seal bark, or a dog bark cough, and it often gives you breathing called strider. This is when your upper airway collapses and you make a wheezing sound. Now croup can seem extremely scary, not just to doctors, but to parents. Croup often happens out of the blue, in the middle of the night, and it is scary when your child wakes up out of the blue, coughing like a seal and gasping for air. So the most important thing with croup is to stay calm.