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5 Common Causes of Cough in Children

5 Common Causes of Cough in Children

From allergies to aspiration and colds, there are many causes of cough in children.

Hearing your kids cough for hours can be bothersome. However a cough is a critical reflex action to promote the clearing of the upper airways.

A cough can be caused by many things—from a upper respiratory illness, sinus infection to accidentally inhaled objects like food or a toy. While most coughs are likely to go away on their own, see your pediatrician if the cough lasts more than 2 weeks.

Lets walk through some common causes of cough in children

Viruses, Allergies and Sinusitis

These are considered to be the most common causes of cough in children. Viruses can cause the common cold which can have a cough. Kids with allergic rhinitis sneeze more often and they are likely to have clear mucus drainage from the nose as well as itchy eyes. Chronic sinusitis can lasts 12 weeks and causes pain or pressure in the face sometimes thick, yellow-green nasal drainage. These conditions can cause a post-nasal drip. The secretions then go to the back of the throat as kids lay down which can lead to a cough. That’s why many parents report that their kid’s cough gets worse at night.


Coughing that happens while taking food or water—especially if the kid has recurrent pneumonia— could be a symptom of aspiration. This condition takes place when food or liquids go below the level of the vocal cords and into the lungs. Aspiration is also caused due to vocal cord paralysis, or other neurologic conditions that lead to decreased sensation in the airway.

Acid reflux

Although acid reflux is linked with stomach aches, vomiting, and heartburn, it can lead to chronic cough in kids. However, acid reflux generally doesn’t directly cause chronic cough on its own. It can worsen cough in patients having an underlying respiratory condition.

Stomach acids work to digest food and are not supposed to move upward from the stomach into the esophagus or trachea. It can lead to a cough reflex if it takes place. Reflux-related cough is generally a dry cough that occurs more in the daytime when a kid is likely to be in an upright position. It can take place after eating, talking, singing or laughing. Doctors advise avoiding certain foods like citrus juices, caffeine, tomatoes and carbonated drinks which can lead to acid reflux.

Blockage in the Airway or Habit Cough

Cough also occurs when something is stuck in the airway. After a choking incident, there is an asymptomatic period that can last up to a couple of weeks before the occurrence of pneumonia. Needless to say that you should see a doctor in such scenario.

Sometimes, the nature of a cough is habitual. For example, some patients are likely to cough even after their condition or “cause” is treated. Such type of cough is typically honking in nature. If the child is busy or their mind is preoccupied, they are less likely to cough. For example, they won’t cough once they have fallen asleep.


Some medications can cause a cough, although this is often rare. For example, ACE inhibitors used to treat high blood pressure and heart conditions can lead to a cough. Epaned and captopril causes cough. The coughing goes away on its own once the medication is stopped.

When should I See a Doctor?

A cough due to allergies or a virus generally will clear up within a couple of weeks. If a cough hasn’t improved in this amount of time it might be best to see a pediatrician, as it may be a sign of more serious medical problem. If the cough progresses to coughing up blood or trouble breathing your child needs immediate medical attention such as going to the ER.

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