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Is 'Daycare Cough' Real?

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Each school year brings excitement and great new learning opportunities for your children. Your kids will swap stories with friends about their fun summers, but they will also be swapping germs, too. This time of year, pediatricians begin to see an increase in patients with colds and what is sometimes referred to as “daycare cough.”

What is daycare cough?

While daycare cough is not an actual medical diagnosis, it is a popular name for a chronic cough experienced by babies and toddlers in childcare settings. In older kids, it is sometimes called the “back-to-school cough.” By definition, a chronic cough is one that has lasted for more than four weeks.

A, B, Cough

Coughing — the body’s natural reaction to an irritant in the airway — is a symptom, not a disease. The most common cause of cough in children is an upper-respiratory infection from one of more than 100 cold viruses. Kids can get eight to ten colds a year, with each one lasting five to seven days. If a cough accompanies each cold, it can seem like your little guy or gal has had the same virus forever, but really, it’s a new cough and cold back-to-back. Other causes of a cough include:

When to see a doctor

If your child has some of the following symptoms, it’s a good idea to make a doctor’s appointment.

  • Cough that has lasted 2 – 3 weeks
  • Coughing up thick, greenish-yellow phlegm
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever

A doctor can rule out more serious conditions, like the flu, bronchitis or pneumonia. If the upper-respiratory infection is bacterial, antibiotics can be prescribed to clear it up.

When to self-treat

Not all coughs need to be seen by a doctor and most will resolve on their own. If your infant or toddler under the age of 2 is behaving, drinking and eating normally with no fever, comfort measures like cool-mist humidifiers or breathing in steam from a hot shower can help, in addition to using saline in the nose and suctioning as needed.

Except for fever reducers and pain relievers, over-the-counter cough and cold medications are not recommended for children under 12 years old. Parents should talk with their child’s doctor before administering such medication. Remember, over-the-counter medicines treat the symptoms of colds and coughs, not the underlying condition.

Are you worried about your child’s chronic cough? Make an appointment with an Ochsner pediatrician today!

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