Monday, April 24, 2017

Looking at Coughing and Breathing Problems in children

All children develop coughs and colds. Although many parents naturally
worry about ongoing coughs that don’t seem to settle, coughs and colds usually
get better eventually without much treatment. Unless your child appears
unwell or his breathing is affected, you don’t normally have to worry. You also
don’t need to fear that a cough due to the common cold will cause any lasting
damage to your child’s lungs. However, you may occasionally be faced with a
more serious underlying problem that requires medical help.

Consider the following causes if your child is coughing:
✓ Common cold: The cold is a common viral infection. Your child may
also have a fever and a runny nose and may have picked up the illness
from someone in the family. Simple colds usually settle by themselves;
apart from giving paracetamol or ibuprofen to make your child feel
better (check the instructions first, as you need to give the correct
dosage for your child’s age), you don’t need to give any other specific
treatment.

✓ Influenza: The flu and other flu-like illnesses (caused by influenza or
similar viruses) may also cause a cough, but your child is likely to feel
more unwell compared to the common cold. Rest and regular fluid
intake are important, and your child usually starts to feel better after
a few days.

If your child also develops breathing problems or noisy breathing, consider
the following possible causes:
✓ Inhaled foreign body: If a cough comes on very suddenly in your otherwise
well child, he may have inhaled a foreign body such as a peanut or
other small object. If the cough doesn’t settle quickly and your child is
short of breath, consult your GP or go to the nearest A&E. Your child
may need assessment and removal of the foreign body in hospital.

✓ Asthma: Asthma is an inflammatory condition leading to narrowing of
the airways, which may cause coughing and difficulty breathing – particularly
at night – in your child. Asthma can vary in severity, ranging from
very mild symptoms to severe wheezing and shortness of breath. If you
suspect that your child has asthma, visit your GP for further assessment
and help with management. For further information about asthma, check
out the Asthma UK website at www.asthma.org.uk.

A number of substances can trigger an asthma attack, in which breathing
symptoms quickly become more severe. Seek immediate medical advice.

✓ Chest infection: Viral or bacterial infections (perhaps following on from
the common cold) may occasionally spread from the throat or windpipe
to your child’s chest. Your child is likely to have a fever and breathe
faster than usual. See your GP, because your child may need antibiotics.
Breathing problems can sometimes be serious. Seek medical advice if you
notice any of the following in your child:

✓ Severe cough lasting for longer than two to three weeks.
✓ Lips, tongue and skin taking on a blue colour.
✓ Not eating or drinking.
✓ Unusual drowsiness or lethargy, and looking unusually unwell.
✓ Very fast, difficult or noisy breathing.

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