A cough that is more noticeable when your child is lying down is
usually caused by mucus running down the back of the throat (postnasal drip)
from an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, sinusitis, or allergy. A
child usually has a runny or stuffy nose, may be irritable, and may have a
fever. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to provide relief for this
type of cough.
A cough during the night that sounds like a barking seal may be a
croup. Your child may sound hoarse with a high-pitched
sound (stridor) when breathing in. Home treatment may be all that is needed in
most cases. But a barking cough that continues through the day or occurs
with difficulty breathing can be more serious.
A child may cough in response to emotional issues (psychogenic
cough). This type of cough is present without other symptoms.
Any cough in a baby younger than 3 months, even without other
symptoms, needs to be taken seriously. If the cough occurs with a change in
feeding habits or decreased activity level, your child needs to be evaluated by
a health professional. If your child is acting normally in every other way,
simply watch him or her closely for 24 hours.
A cough that is persistent, interrupts sleep, or slows your child
down needs to be watched closely. A cough is more likely to be serious if
especially if it interferes with sleep or other daily
Produces mucus that appears to be from the lungs
(sputum) or brings up bloody sputum.
Persists after a choking
episode. Vomiting may also occur.
Comes in spasms, especially if
your child is unable to catch his or her breath.
A cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks is usually a sign of an
reflux. But it may mean a more serious
problem. A visit to your child's doctor is needed when a cough is
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.