Coughing is a natural protective mechanism designed to clear bacteria, viruses, dust, and pollen out of the body. Coughing clears the lungs and throat of irritants and fluids. A productive cough forces sputum from the breathing tract, thereby clearing the air passages and allowing oxygen to reach the lungs.
A cough is also a common symptom of diseases of the ear, nose, and throat. Coughing may be related to a bacterial or viral infection of the respiratory tract, such as bronchitis, laryngitis, pneumonia, or croup. A cough can also be caused by inhaling irritating substances, such as dust, chemical fumes, or cigarette smoke. Food sensitivities and environmental allergies can cause a cough, as can inhaling very cold or very hot air. If your child has a persistent cough, emotional stress is another important factor to consider.
Depending on the cause, a child's cough may be loud and gasping, harsh and high-pitched, or barking. It may be dry and rasping, or moist with mucus. If asthma is involved, your child may wheeze every time she inhales or exhales.
Although coughing is a necessary and helpful physical response, it can be distressing and very tiring to your child. Continuous, uncontrollable coughing makes sleeping difficult, and may also cause your child to feel as if she aches all over. The chest and abdominal muscles can be pulled or strained by continual coughing. Coughing may also cause further irritation to an inflamed respiratory tract.
A sudden coughing fit may signal the presence of a foreign body in your child's
airway. Because young children put everything in their mouths, they have been
known to get objects like coins or buttons lodged in the respiratory tract.
Watch your child closely. If other signs indicate a blocking of the airway--
if your child becomes unable to speak, makes high-pitched sounds with
breathing, gasps for breath, turns blue, or clutches at her throat call for emergency help and consult an emergency manual.
In some cases, a cough may indicate the onset of a more serious or chronic illness, such as asthma, a tumor, heart disease, cystic fibrosis, or epiglottitis. Epiglottitis is a dangerous condition that mainly affects children between two and seven years of age. It can cause the windpipe to close when the child swallows. It usually comes on suddenly, and rapidly worsens over a few hours. If you suspect your child may be developing epiglottitis , take her to the emergency room of the nearest hospital or call for emergency medical assistance immediately.
Even an ordinary cough should never be ignored. An untreated cough can lead to pneumonia, and the constant irritation coughing causes may result in damage to the respiratory tract.
Signs of Epiglottitis
Epiglottitis is a bacterial infection of the epiglottis, the structure that closes off the windpipe when a person swallows to keep food and liquid from entering the lungs. Often preceded by a day or two of an upper respiratory tract infection, epiglottitis can develop very quickly and cause such severe swelling in the back of the throat that the airway can be completely cut off. Needless to say, this is a medical emergency and requires immediate intervention. Signs that epiglottitis may be developing include:
About The Author
JANET ZAND, O.M.D., L.Ac.
is a nationally respected author, lecturer, practitioner and herbal products formulator whose work has helped thousands of people achieve better health....more