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Acute Cough In Children


An acute cough is a cough that lasts up to 3 weeks. It is usually caused by the common cold. It may also be caused by allergic rhinitis or an infection, such as a lung infection. An acute cough usually goes away on its own within 3 to 4 weeks.


Return to the emergency department if:

  • Your child has difficulty breathing.
  • Your child is breathing fast:
    • More than 60 breaths in 1 minute for infants up to 2 months of age
    • More than 50 breaths in 1 minute for infants 2 months to 1 year of age
    • More than 40 breaths in 1 minute for a child 1 year and older
  • The skin between your child's ribs or around his neck goes in with every breath.
  • Your child coughs up blood, or you see blood in his mucus.
  • Your child's cough gets worse, or it sounds like a barking cough.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a cough or fever that does not get better within 5 days.
  • Your child is wheezing.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


  • Medicines may be recommended by your child's healthcare provider. Your child may need medicines to treat allergies or decrease swelling in his airways. If your child has a bacterial infection, he may need antibiotics. Do not give cough and cold medicine to a child younger than 4 years. Talk to your healthcare provider before you give cold and cough medicine to a child older than 4 years.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.