Decode Your Child’s Cough
How to recognize seven major illnesses
Cough Clues: A mildly hoarse, throaty cough that comes in frequent spells and can be either wet or dry.
Other Symptoms: Your child feels listless and complains that his throat is scratchy and sore, his head hurts, and the muscles in his back and legs ache. He may also have a runny nose, fever, and nausea.
Likely Culprit: The flu, a viral respiratory illness that’s most common from November through April.
What to Do: Call the doctor if your child has a fever above 101.5 degrees Fahrenheit, is throwing up, has diarrhea, or is uninterested in eating or drinking (your doctor will recommend steps to prevent dehydration). Give your child plenty of fluids and use a humidifier to alleviate congestion in his airways. Also, to ward off future bouts of the flu, ask your pediatrician about getting your child an annual flu shot; experts recommend the vaccine particularly for babies six to 23 months, as this age range is most susceptible to complications associated with the flu.
Cough Clues: A wheezy, crackly, persistent cough after your child eats. Coughing episodes typically worsen when she’s lying down.
Other Symptoms: She may feel a burning sensation or may vomit or belch when swallowing. A baby might be fussy or have been labeled as colicky. Toddlers may develop wheezing and picky eating habits.
Likely Culprit: GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), caused by a weak or immature band of muscle between the esophagus and stomach that allows acid to flow back up. Sometimes the irritating juices can enter the lungs, causing a chronic cough.
What to Do: Have your child see the pediatrician if her wheezy cough lasts longer than two weeks. He may recommend keeping a baby upright for at least 30 minutes after feedings and for babies and older children, elevating the head of their mattress while they sleep. With older children, he may also suggest < ahref="http://www.babyzone.com/baby_toddler_preschooler_health/illness_disease/article/gerd">avoiding foods and beverages that cause symptoms, such as caffeinated sodas, chocolate, peppermint, spicy foods like pizza, acidic foods like orange and tomatoes, and fried and fatty foods, and not eating within two hours of bedtime. Prescription medicine can also control GERD symptoms.
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