It’s Just a Cough, Right? ~Bellevue Pediatrics

The fall season has begun with temperatures dropping and allergies in full swing. Now with everyone back to school, kids are coming home with drippy noses and hacking coughs. We try some over-the-counter medicines (allergy or cold) to help our children’s nasal symptoms, but what are we to do about those pesky coughs?  Cough can be the first or only sign of asthma.

Many parents have treated their children in their early years for wheezing episodes. At the beginning of those episodes, they appear to be viral illnesses that “moved into their chest.”  Although a less severe symptom, cough is a part of almost all of these episodes.  They may develop severe symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath or even low oxygen. Their pediatricians prescribe medicine via a nebulizer or an inhaler with a spacer.

As children get older, these wheezing or coughing episodes are called asthma, often triggered by either viruses or allergies. Because they are older, they often have less severe presentations.  These children often present with a cough that worsens at night or lingers for weeks. It is important to begin treating milder symptoms, like cough, so that these symptoms do not worsen to severe ones, such as wheezing and shortness of breath.

The triggers for asthma are many, but the most frequent are smoke exposure, allergens and infection.  Exposure to smoke can be prevented by avoiding smoking in the home or car. Careful treatment of allergies or avoidance of allergy triggers is crucial.  Infections, like viruses are a bit trickier, as they are difficult to avoid and can’t be treated.  In any case, it is important to be vigilant to treat the asthma with prescription inhalers or nebulizer and see your physician if it isn’t working.  Lastly, if your child frequently or severely struggles with asthma, there are very safe and effective preventative medicines your physician can prescribe. 


~David Silk