Skip to Content

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.

Seek care immediately 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.


An acute cough usually goes away on its own within 3 to 4 weeks. Your child may need medicine 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.

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

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

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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.