By Dr. Madiha Masood
Cough is one of the most common symptoms of childhood illnesses. As offensive as it may sound it’s not usually a sign of a serious condition. In fact, coughing is an important and healthy reflex that helps protect the airways in the throat and chest.
First let’s look at things that cause cough in order to prevent it.
What Causes Cough?
Many things can trigger a cough, these can range from little dust particles, allergens present in our surroundings to pathogens i.e. bacteria, viruses and parasites. These causes classify cough into productive (having sputum) and non-productive or dry.
Productive cough means you might be having infection from a virus or bacteria, a reflux disease of stomach, while dry cough is commonly due to allergies and asthma.
When to take it seriously
- If cough gets severe, with spasms or attacks, wheezing, or stridor (an almost-musical sound produced while inhaling)
- if the cough lasts for about 3 weeks, gets worse, happens the same time every year, or seems caused by something specific such as pollen, dust, pets, etc.
- If your child has a continuous fever with cough
- In babies three months or younger specially if accompanied by fever
- If the child is breathing fast or working hard to breathe
- Blue or dusky lip color, or of face, or tongue during or after coughing.
For immediate relief
- Clear your child’s nose because it helps the child breathe and sleep more easily. If however nose becomes sore you can rub a little petroleum jelly or other child-safe ointment around his nostrils.
- For infants who can’t blow their nose use saline nose drops to relieve congestion. Buy them from the store or make your own by stirring 1/4 teaspoon of salt into 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Just make sure you make it fresh every time.
- Run a cool-mist humidifier in your child’s bedroom and be sure to clean humidifiers often because they accumulate mold, which is then sprayed into the air. One should aim for humidity levels of 40% to 50% in homes, winter and summer because moist air can also be a trigger for asthma and encourage the growth of dust mites and mold, allergens that may start you or your child hacking.
- Try bathing with warm water and if you can’t, sit in a steamy bathroom for about 20 minutes.
- For children over the age of two years, adding a few drops of menthol or vaporizer to bath water. also helps in easing chest and nasal congestion. Menthol oil is easily available in natural food stores.
- Offer plenty of fluids ;breast milk or formula to babies and cool water and juice to older kids. Avoid carbonated or citrus drinks that may irritate an already sensitive throat.
- If your child can eat normal food, offer him light food that’s not too oily or spicy. Also make sure he doesn’t feel too full.
Things to avoid
- Never give cough drops to young kids as it might be a choking hazard.
- It’s best to avoid citrus fruits like oranges and lemon if your baby has a sore throat. The acids in these fruits can aggravate the situation.
- Avoid coconuts as they have high oil content in them.
A substance that has miraculous properties, pure honey, with its perfect composition helps soothe cough more effectively than any regular medicine. Its thick consistency coats and soothes the throat and helps tame it. It has an enzyme – Inhibine – that has potential antibiotic effect. Honey often gets hard at room temperature, so soften it by warming it slightly before taking it. You can also use it mixed with a little hot water.
Lemon and Honey tea is a great way to soothe a sore throat and calm a cough. Honey helps to break up mucous and the astringent nature of lemon juice does the same thing while also providing vitamin C.
Ginger is secretly useful and it has been used for its medicinal properties since long. Practitioners commonly prescribe ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu because it has antihistamine and decongestant capabilities.
Salt water gargles
Gargling with salt water is a widely renowned way to soothe a sore throat. It also helps clear mucous from the throat. Your child must be old enough to learn to gargle. That might means school age or older, however some children can manage it earlier. Simply combine 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and stir. If your child doesn’t like the taste, squeeze in some of fresh lemon juice that can prove be a soothing addition.
It may seem hard when your kid starts coughing but these simple remedies will help you ease the way and eventually fight off the ailment.
There’s no concrete evidence that cough medicines are a beneficial treatment in children. Antibiotics are to be avoided in particular as they are contraindicated before six years of age. Therefore good ‘cough’management at home is the safest and most perfect solution.
About the author:
Dr. Madiha Masood is the mother of four children, two of which are twins. She has previously worked as an obstetrician/gynecologist at Lady Dufferin Hospital and has now undertaken the task of simplifying health issues in accordance with Islamic values.