Many parents of young children regularly take their children to the health center because of cough and cold symptoms. Coughs are often caused by harmless conditions, but some symptoms should be watched out for. In this guide, we divide the symptoms in young children (0-2 years) into three different parts: cough, croup and asthma.
Coughing in young children
Coughing in young children can sound scary, prompting many to go to a health center for an opinion. Young children, like older people, can get a cough associated with upper respiratory tract infections. Coughing is the body's own defense against mucus getting stuck in the lower airways. But coughing in young children often sounds more scary than it is. This is because young children do not have the ability to clear their throat as adults do, and can therefore make it sound funny because the mucus is "traveling" through the other airways. Sometimes young children vomit out the mucus and this is a good thing. Often no treatment is needed as long as the child is otherwise unaffected, what you should keep in mind is that the cough can be persistent and last for several weeks.
Breast milk, formula and gruel may have a slight expectorant effect and in some cases may cause the baby to vomit after such a meal. A tip might be to give the child a small amount first to see if they vomit and then feed a full meal. This is to avoid throwing up the whole meal.
The first experience of croup is frightening for many people. Croup is caused by swelling of the upper airways around the vocal cords and is characterized by a harsh barking cough, and sometimes hoarseness. Symptoms often come at the beginning of a viral infection, but sometimes even before the child is noticed to be unwell. Croup can stress the child because it makes them feel like they can't breathe, and in these situations it is important for adults to remain calm in order to best reassure their child.
Fresh air and cold drinks can relieve the symptoms of croup, but if the symptoms escalate, you may need to go to the emergency room, possibly for cortisone and a special inhaler.
Asthma and cold asthma are disorders of the lower airways and can cause a persistent cough in children, often at night. Asthma is often characterized by wheezing and can cause breathing difficulties and rib constriction that can make the child tired. Children who have been affected by an RS infection early in life have an increased fragility of their airways and are more likely to experience these problems. The airways of young children are initially small and narrow. During an infection, the airways can narrow and mucus can form which can be difficult for young children to cough up.
The most effective treatment for asthma is inhalation via a spacer inhaler with a mask, such as Optichamber. Primarily, bronchodilators are used, but often cortisone is also needed to attack the cough/inflammation itself - i.e. the irritation of the lower airways.
If the child is generally affected and does not eat, an emergency medical assessment either at the BUMM with light emergency appointments, the medical center or at a local hospital is necessary.
Want to read about common allergies in young children? Click here!