Constant coughing in children can be a cause for concern for parents and caregivers. In many cases, the initial cause of a cough is a minor irritant and occasional coughing is completely normal in children of any age. However, continued coughing can be an indication of potentially more serious underlying medical issues that should be addressed by a visit to the doctor. Chronic coughing can be an indication of both minor and serious respiratory conditions.
According to the Mayo Clinic, coughing is a very common and normal physical response to an irritant in the lungs. This irritant can be the presence of mucus, food or other allergens that stimulate the cough reflex in the body. Occasional coughing is very normal and should be expected. However, when a cough extends beyond being an occasional event and becomes chronic and constant, it can be cause for alarm.
Less Serious Causes
BabyCenter states that there are a wide variety of less serious causes for constant coughing in children. These include the common cold, croup and seasonal allergies. The common cold is often uncomfortable for a child, but rarely is it life-threatening. Normally it will pass within a few days. Croup can sound like a barking cough and sound awful, but it is also a minor ailment and most children outgrow this seasonal condition. Seasonal allergies can occur at any time of year and may be uncomfortable, but rarely are they life threatening.
More Serious Causes
There are, however, several more serious causes for constant coughing in children that parents should be aware of. These include whooping cough and respiratory syncytial virus (otherwise known as RSV). Whooping cough is a condition that can be prevented with the DTaP vaccination and is characterized by 20 to 30 seconds of continuous coughing, according to BabyCenter. RSV is common among babies and young children and has symptoms of the common cold, including labored breathing and worsening cough. RSV is considered serious because it can become a serious condition like bronchitis or pneumonia.
For very young children, it can be difficult to treat chronic and constant coughing, since many medications are intended for older children or adults. According to the Mayo Clinic, the first line of treatment may include the use of antihistamines and decongestants. Another form of treatment may include using older decongestants that may have a slight sedating effect on children. Another form of treatment may be the use of corticosteroids to control inflammation. Corticosteroids may be delivered through the use of a nebulizer with small children or with the use of an inhaler for older children.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several complications that may occur with constant coughing in children. Because of the constant hard breathing and percussive experience of a cough, a child may also complain of having a constant headache. If the coughing is especially hard, the child may also complain about his sides or ribs hurting. He may feel dizzy and sweat excessively because of the physical labor of coughing. Finally, he may have episodes of urinary incontinence with coughing jags.