27 answers

Need Help with Persistent Toddler Cough

My 2 1/2 has had a horrible cough for over 3 weeks now. Her peditrician suggested Delsym first. We tried this and it did not touch the cough at all. The cough got worse and we contacted the pedi again. They suggested it might be allergies and to try Claritin. Tried and once again did not help. We visited the peditrician yesterday. She did a QUICK check and suggested antibiotics. She was given Amoxicillin. Lungs sounded good and ears were clear.

So 24 hours later still nothing. I know most antibiotics take 48 hours.

I am just really concerned that something else is going on. Her cough is so bad that it takes her breath away. The cough has only gotten worse. She has no other symptoms. Sometimes she complains with her head hurting because she has coughed so hard and long. She coughs so hard sometimes she throws up. Any suggestions. I am just wondering if it could be something else.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

UPDATE: We are now almost 7 weeks into the coughing. It is now accompanied by throwing up. I am really worried about what is going on.. After our 4th dr visit yesterday, 2 rounds of antibiotics and steroids, a chest xray and an upper GI Xray..We are at a standstill.. She was prescribed prevacid because they thought she had acid reflux.. No help though.. The dr says all the xrays looks good.. He made up a followup visit in 2 weeks..

I just am at a loss and have no idea what the next steps will be.. Please pray for my little one.

Featured Answers

Try 2-3 drops of Oil of Oregano (find at Whole Foods), mix in a few ounces of water or juice, once daily. Should clear up allergy related cough and allergy symptoms within two - three days.

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds like either an infection or possibly asthma. If the antibiotic does not help then bring up the possibility of testing for asthma.

I am actually having the same thing with my 2 1/2 year old right now, as is my neighbor with her 2 1/2 year old. Persistant (seemingly productive) cough. I've taken my 5 year old in for stuff like this when she was little and they wouldn't do anything. It doesn't keep my daughter up, and only wakes her occasionally. I have been trying regular children's Sudafed and it seems to help, so I think it may be post nasal drip. She had a cold just over a month ago, and she still is struggling with the last bits of her big 2 year molars coming in.

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Try 2-3 drops of Oil of Oregano (find at Whole Foods), mix in a few ounces of water or juice, once daily. Should clear up allergy related cough and allergy symptoms within two - three days.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi K.,

I would suggest definitely trying to find out what might be the underlying cause of the coughing, but in the meantime, I received an email a while back and I swear by this remedy. Both of my children had croup at one time. I used the following (using Vicks Baby Rub) the first night of the start of the croup and they both slept very well, with the croup over with by the next afternoon. I was simply amazed! Maybe it could give your little one some relief. I am attaching the email below.


During a lecture on Essential Oils, they told us how the foot soles can absorb oils. Their example: Put garlic on your feet and within 20 minutes you can 'taste' it.

Some of us have used Vicks Vapo rub for years for everything from chapped lips to sore toes and many body parts in between. But I've never heard of this. And don't laugh, it works 100% of the time, although the scientists who discovered it aren't sure why. To stop night time coughing in a child (or adult as we found out personally), put Vicks Vapo rub generously on the bottom of the feet at bedtime, then cover with socks. Even persistent, heavy, deep coughing will stop in about 5 minutes and stay stopped for many, many hours of relief. Works 100% of the time and is more effective in children than even very strong prescription cough medicines. In addition it is extremely soothing and comforting and they will sleep soundly.

Just happened to tune in A.M. Radio and picked up this guy talking about why cough medicines in kids often do more harm than good, due to the chemical makeup of these strong drugs so, I listened. It was a surprise finding and found to be more effective than prescribed medicines for children at bedtime, in addition to have a soothing and calming effect on sick children who then went on to sleep soundly.

My wife tried it on herself when she had a very deep constant and persistent cough a few weeks ago and it worked 100%! She said that it felt like a warm blanket had enveloped her, coughing stopped in a few minutes and believe me, this was a deep, ( incredibly annoying!) every few seconds uncontrollable cough, and she slept cough-free for hours every night that she used it.

If you have grandchildren, pass this on. If you end up sick, try it yourself and you will be absolutely amazed at how it works


I hope this will help your little one as it did mine. Again, I just thought it was amazing. Unbelievable but it worked like a charm!

Best Wishes!

1 mom found this helpful

My sons doctor chose to go hollistic/homeopathic a couple years ago (which I was ecstatic about). Whenever my son gets "a cough" she told me to use Vick's vapor rub on his feet at bedtime. Just put a layer on the bottoms of the feet and put on socks. I thought it was a rather silly thing to do, but IT WORKS FOR HIM. Now, it may not work for everyone of course. But, if your child can sleep at night time, you both will feel better in the morning. Hope this helps. Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful

As awful as a cough sounds in a small person, it serves a very important purpose for the body. A cough clears the lungs so the lungs can work more efficiently. Focus on the cause, not the symptom.

It sounds a lot like seasonal allergy reaction. My son had seasonal asthmatic symptoms as a young person (he out grew them as suggested by his Dr.) but it would get really bad. We used a nebulizer for a few seasons.

IF it is allergy related, a natural approach is Nettle Tea with Local honey. This helps the body build its own natural defense against the allergens. Same as Claritin. Claritin can take up to two weeks to work, as it is a histamine building medication, don't expect it (or meds like it) to work over night. Claritin worked pretty well for us & got us off the nebulizer. You have to give it time.

The nettle tea & Local honey (honey made close to your home - not grocery store honey) got us off the Claritin all together. You can find these things at Whole foods.

Benedrill around bed time made for better sleeping at night.

Hope this was helpful to you!


Claritin worked pretty well for us & got us off the nebulizer. You have to give it time.

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter was having the same problem until just 3 nights ago. It was over a month of coughing, mostly only after she had fallen asleep. Two hours or so into her sleep she would wake up coughing, for about an hour at a time, fall back asleep and then wake up again a couple of hours later. I realized it was when her throat had totally relaxed as she entered a deeper sleep stage that this happened. But I didn't know what to do. We had a warm steam humidifier with Vicks, then tried a cool steam one with Vicks, Vicks on the feet with socks, Claritin, Robitussin, spoonful of honey....NONE of them helped a single bit. When she started gagging on her coughs I got very concerned.

I happened to mention this to my sister. She told me IBUPROFEN will stop her cough. She used to have a severe cough that happened during sleep as an adult, and figure out on her own that the only thing that helped was ibuprofen. It was allergen related swelling in her throat that, when more relaxed during sleep, would touch and tickle, causing the cough.

I tried it that night after a coughing fit. My daughter slept the rest of the night without a peep. The next two nights, I gave her a dose before bed and she has not coughed a single time all night.

Please try this if your child has no known allergy to ibuprofen.

1 mom found this helpful

K., have they bothered to do a chest x-ray??? Is she up to date with her immunizations? If the coughing is at night it could be allergies...does she have any other symptoms like a fever, or runny nose or feeling yucky??? You may want to consider another pediatrician....i'm sure they checked her oxygen levels??? Sorry, it can be a little confusing trying to figure things out when you don't have all the details...but i've seen doctors who try to keep parents from worrying so they go with the basics, just stay persistant and keep pushing! It's your baby, and doctors do make mistakes sometimes, they're only human...best of luck and hope things get better soon! Just a note, antibiotics can take 3 or 4 days to really kick in.

1 mom found this helpful

It sounds like either an infection or possibly asthma. If the antibiotic does not help then bring up the possibility of testing for asthma.

Sometimes foods can cause or worsen a cough -- milk and other dairy products are known to produce mucus, for example. It's also possible that she has an insensitivity to other foods which are manifesting in a cough. My husband has sinus troubles and a cough which clear up when he stops eating things made with wheat. Weird how that works... but it does.

I am actually having the same thing with my 2 1/2 year old right now, as is my neighbor with her 2 1/2 year old. Persistant (seemingly productive) cough. I've taken my 5 year old in for stuff like this when she was little and they wouldn't do anything. It doesn't keep my daughter up, and only wakes her occasionally. I have been trying regular children's Sudafed and it seems to help, so I think it may be post nasal drip. She had a cold just over a month ago, and she still is struggling with the last bits of her big 2 year molars coming in.

I didnt read all of the responses but noticed a couple mentioned asthma. I had asthma as a child and ALWAYS coughed. Sometimes I wheezed during attacks, but usually I would just cough. For me it was worse with physical exertion and later we found that my asthma is exercise-induced. My younger sister was the same way.

Also, it could still be allergies or an infection, but the medications won't relieve the cough if the primary cause is asthma.

Having gone through this with my boy who is now 20... it instantly reminded me of ASTHMA... that is how it starts. Does it sound like a barking seal/dog in a sorta kinda way?

I would have the child evaluated for Asthma ASAP.
My son who only ever had a problem with his asthma when he got sick with a cold.. but remember Asthma kills. It is not something to be taken lightly. Consider getting her checked out asap.

do you think it could be asthma? My 4 y/o has asthma and he has coughing fits where he will make himself sick and vomit..it could even be allergy induced asthma. have you ever tried predizone or a breathing treatment? once Nicholas starts coughing he is so miserable and whinnie, he can't eat, sleep or play due to coughing so often. I have not found anything over the counter that really helps except Robitussium DM. Hope your little one fills better really soon.

Hi K.! I pray this will help you, I'm older but when I was younger I used to have the same problem, only my cough would be at night, and I would wake up every night at 1p.m. My grandfather told my mother to give me a tablespoon of table mustard. The mustard you would put on hot dogs' but since the baby is so young I night suggest a 1/4 of teaspoon.Sometimea the natural is better, Then If that dosen't work try Honey.That is sweet which she make take it better and it is a natural and will help sooth the throat and lot's of prayer and also a second predatricians oppinion. I will be praying for you and your child.

This sounds to me like asthma and allergies. Sometimes the allergies can trigger the asthma out of no where. Both of my children have it and so do I. Try a humidifier in the room where your child sleeps as well as asking for an at home nebulizer so you can administer asthma medication in the privacy of your own home. Also, an allergy test would probably do a lot of good to see what are the triggers.

this sounds just like me when i was little... every time i went to the doctor my lungs were clear... after many months of this my mom took me to an allergy/asthma doc. turns out i had sever asthma. i am not a wheezer, i can have pneumonia and my lungs are clear. ask for a referral to an allergy/asthma doc if you are in louisville kentuckiana allergy asthma and immunology are great. call asap i know how this little one feels!
ps if you cant get in right away ask your doc for prednisone or other steriod

Has the doctor suggested an allergy test? When my son (age 7) was coughing and had no other symptoms we had an allergy test done and found out he's allergic to a particular tree in the area. He takes seasonal allergy meds now for a few weeks each year. He would also cough so hard he would throw up. If there are no other symptoms, it sounds like an allergy test would be a good idea. Good luck.

My kids had this same problem when they were toddlers and even now I have this happen ever so often. You may want to get a second opinion just in case. I know that when my kids had it it was due to bronchitis and irritations. The deal with coughing so hard they puke is helping to bring up the congestion/fleme/bad stuff thats in their lungs and stomache. Most of it is in the lungs but when it does come up and gets swallowed it goes into the stomache. Like mine, 1-3 days later after a horrible cough and fever and such, I end up puking it all out since I can't bring it up and spit it out. Hope this helps. I dont know exactly what the dr told you but just in case get another opinion. And yes it does look like they cant breathe at all and are literally choking. You may need to prop up their beds to keep their throats clear at night and run a humidifier. We do and that helps. Delsym is really good because it brings the stuff up and out but you have to keep using it for awhile. Try it for 2 weeks at least or even just one, if it doesn't work call the dr for something else.

We recently went through something similar with our 10 year old son. He developed a horrible cough - no fever and no other symptoms. We tried several different medications. I took him to the doctor and they said his lungs were clear and that they did not know what was causing the cough they suggested it could be an allergy or a virus. Afterwards, I was talking with our neighbor and she said that when one of her children was about our sons age he developed an awful cough that lasted for more than 6 months. They took him to several doctors and ENT specialists and had several tests run. The doctors were unable to tell them why he was coughing. One doctor told her that he did not have asthma and that his lungs were clear, but that he could be having bronchial spasms and that if this was the case an albuterol inhaler could help relieve the coughing. They tried it and it worked for them. I called our pediatrition and asked if we could try an albuterol inhaler for our son and they called a prescription in for us to try. They did warn us that his coughing might get worse during the first 48 hours. We did use the inhaler for about two weeks and his coughing did get better. We have not needed to use the inhaler for about two weeks now. He occasionally still does cough, but it is brief and not bothersome. Good Luck

that does sound weird. maybe try a tbls of honey, a humidifier. I've alsoheard that you can put Vicks on their feet and then put socks on her.

Hope it clears up!


Hi! I understand how you are feeling. We went through the same thing with my son at about the same age (he's 3 1/2 now). His cough persisted for about 3 months or so. You aren't going to want to hear this, but she could have "pre-asthma." Her symptoms sound like the ones my pediatrician told me about and the same ones my son had. My pediatrician put Benjamin (son) on 2 different medicines done with a breathing machine. After I tried it for about 2+ months without any improvement I took him to an Ear, Nose & Throat specialist. Talk to your pediatrician about the asthma possibility. The comforting thing is that sometimes toddlers grow out of asthma, so don't be too scared if it turns out that she does have pre-asthma. I know the "don't be too scared" statement is a stupid admonition when it is your baby. Talk to your ped. about the asthma option and if the meds. don't touch the cough go to an Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist. Thankfully the medicine that the ENT prescribed kicked the horrible cough and it has not returned. Hang in there. I know how scary it is when your child can't stop coughing, can't catch her breath or even throws up. Good luck. -Katie H.

My son had a similar problem and after several things didn't work our pediatrician suggested we take him to an asthma and allergy doctor. That might help. She may have allergies that they can test for or even asthma. I didn't know, but there is a form of asthma that isn't wheezing, but is coughing. Check it out, hope you can figure it out, I know it's sad when they just can't stop coughing.

Hi K.,

I wonder why they have not prescribed a nebulizer for her. She sounds like she needs to have her lung passages opened up and a nebulizer will help with that.

When you gave her the Claritin, how long did you give it to her? Sometimes, if it is an allergy, it can take more than a couple of doses to stop the irritant.

Questions to think about:
Did you change your laundry detergent?
Did you change your dryer sheets?
Did you change her bedding, washed her blankets, etc. when you tried the Claritin?

Other than that, I would try another doctor in the practice or I would go to an ENT (ear, nose and throat) and see what they say. There are some that test for allergies as well.

One last thing, try benedryl before she goes to bed. That will help her sleep and if it is an allergy, it is very fast acting. Sometimes, allergy medications don't work well for people. I have found benedryl works great except for the one little side affect!

I feel your concern. My daughter is 3 yrs old. She had her 1st asthma attack right after her 1st birthday. She has had two hospitalizations total, but we seem to have her under control with the right medicines and breathing treatments. I am a registered nurse and I didn't know about the cough-asthma connection until my daughter was diagnosed. Asthma does not run in either side of her family...another reason I was confused with the diagnosis. As long as there is any kind of allergy, even hayfever in a childs family, they can get asthma.
I'm not diagnosing your toddler, but I think it is worth looking into. I have medications I can now give at the first sign of cough to prevent her asthma from flaring up and keeping her out of the hospital. She was a very sick little girl and getting sicker until we figured it out, but now can lead a normal happy toddler/preschooler, life.
I have also read some of the other responses sent to you. I did see that whooping cough was mentioned...sad but true, that disease was not eradicated as we once thought...I took care of an adult patient with whooping cough in 2005 and it is a horrible illness as well. It can take months to start feeling better and also usually ends up with a hospital stay. Something to mention to the doctor as well.
If you are not getting the answers you need from your pediatrician, you absolutely have the right to get a second opinion.
Good luck and I hope you are both feeling better soon!

It sounds like croup but surely the dr would have picked up on that. We've had that a lot and steriods either by injection or orally are the only thing that really works. Usually ours gets bad enough that their lungs aren't clear though. One of my kids has asthma. He's 13 now but we started noticing at a young age. He has allergies too so his coughing/trouble breathing was attributed to that for a long time. It was hard to get them to diagnose him with asthma. But after several years of having these bouts they finally did. His has gotten much better. We have found some good meds that really control it now.

I second the lady that said that it sounds like whooping cough...
Especially if the allergy medicine doesn't work, neither do the antibiotics... Look it up and you'll see how the symptoms are exactly what you are describing... There are tests that can be done to confirm it. If it is indeed whooping cough, nothing will make it go away, just time (months...!), but you can definitely try to make your child more comfortable in the mean time with all the great ideas that have been brought up.

best of luck! Let us know what it was if you do find out!

Our daughter went through a similar thing, and it turned out to be allergy-triggered asthma attacks. She had had a couple of out and out asthma attacks, but afterward for several months had a cough that would wake her up at night. There was always something else going on that seemed like the culprit, but finally, the doctor prescribed pulmicort, which is an inhaled steroid for asthma. Her cough went away almost immediately. We kept up that treatment for a year, and since then she has been cough and asthma attack free. We aren't certain that she's outgrown it, but so far so good. I would highly recommend that you talk to the pediatrician about the possibility. Good luck!

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