Most children become ill and cough a number of times a year:
- Usually a cough is due to a mild upper respiratory tract infection (cold, pharyngitis or sinusitis) due to a virus and does not last more than 3 weeks.
- A cough may be due to a lower respiratory tract infection (pneumonia, croup, bronchitis, bronchiolitis and asthma). It is, therefore, important to look for signs of these conditions.
- A cough lasting more than 3 weeks (21 days) may be a sign of tuberculosis (TB).
- Think of whooping cough if a bout of couching leads to vomiting.
- Think of asthma if the cough is worse at night or after exercise. In bronchiolitis the cough is also worse at night. Asthmatics usually have a recurrent wheezy cough.
- A cough that starts soon after lying down suggests a post-nasal drip in acute sinusitis.
- The sudden onset of coughing after a choking episode suggests an inhaled foreign body.
- A barking cough is suggestive of croup.