He Just Can't Stop Coughing

Updated on December 26, 2009
H.J. asks from Saint Paul, MN
17 answers

My 2.5 year old son came down with a pretty typical cold Saturday the 12th. He was fine the first week just some congestion. Now he can't stop coughing! All day he has this awful deep cough, so bad he has to stop what he is doing and just hack up a lung. Even worse at night, all night long we hear him coughing away. I have been trying to give him cough medicine mostly at night but even the medicine doesn't seem to help him much. He has had this bad cough since this last Friday the 18th. Should I be taking him in...other then the cough he is just fine, not really stuffy in the nose anymore, no fever, and he is very happy. I hate to bug the doctors on Christmas Eve over a cough but it is just going on so long.

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So What Happened?

Thank you everyone for your information. We did get him in and they diag. him with Bronchitis, he is now on antibiotics and will hopefully get better soon!

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answers from Milwaukee on

Take him into the doctor after Christmas and demand antibiotics. 3 of my 3 kids had this cough. It is bad and my 4 year old was throwing up every night b/c he would cough so much. Only 2 of my kids received antibiotics for bronchitis. Those 2 kids are totally better. My daughter who did not receive antibiotics is still coughing how many weeks later.



answers from Omaha on

Put on a thick layer of vicks vapor rub on the soles of his feet then put socks on. IT works better than cough medicine. Will start working in 5 minutes or so. Its the most amazing thing ever!

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answers from Minneapolis on

My one-year-old had a cold and then a terrible cough with wheezing and we brought him in but it turned out the cough was simply from the cold. We used the steam in the bathroom trick, the humidifier (first cool mist then warm mist), and also used a Vicks plug-in. The Vicks plug-in really is amazing!
The coughing subsided within a few days and now we are just keeping the cool mist humidifier in his room every night.



answers from Minneapolis on

Sometimes the after-effects of the cold (namely drainage) are worse than the cold itself. You may have taken him to the doctor by now, but I can tell you that it seems standard across the board that pediatricians don't recommend cough syrup for children under 5, and that it does nothing anyway. My friend had this issue with her daughter at the same age, and her doctor suggested the children's Mucinex as a last resort. Other suggestions I've heard are to give a teaspoon of honey or, believe it or not, Karo corn syrup, or putting vapor rub on the feet and covering them with socks. I have tried all these except the Mucinex, and they have worked sporadically. My kids both like warm mint or chamomile tea with honey when they have coughs, and it certainly helps them be calm and happy, and melts the mucus in their throat for a while. If your son's cough is not getting better, and you haven't taken him in to the doctor yet, you may want to think about it. It could lead to bronchitis, or be caused by a sinus infection. I hope he's better by now, or soon!



answers from Milwaukee on

Hi H.,

There is avirus going around with this horrible coughing. I've had friends that have had it for several weeks.

They all have ended up in the doctor's office. And they all were prescribed a cough medicine.

Take him in! They can give him a higher dose. This cough thing is horrible and I know grown men that it has just laid them on their keesters and we're talking about your little one.

That's why doctor's chose thier profession. To "help those in need". Don't feel bad. I surely wouldn't!

Wishing you the best,




answers from Madison on

It's not recommended to give cough medicine to someone under 6. Talk to your doctor about his cough.

Make sure he has a humidifier in his room at night.



answers from Indianapolis on

It sounds similar to when our daughter had croup. Evening is usually worse.

I'd really caution you AGAINST cough medication until you've checked with your pediatrician or pharmacist. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that children under 6 NOT get cough and cold medications.

We did use Delsym, but only under the recommendation of our Pediatrician, and then, it was very sparingly.

For croup, the best thing is a humidifier and cold temperatures which help open the respiratory system.

I would call the pediatrician (even if it is on Christmas Eve - it should be a simple call that won't interrupt festivities at this point, and it will give you needed peace of mind).

Good luck! I hope he is well soon.


answers from Norfolk on

Use a humidifier. Have him drink plenty of fluids to keep the mucus loose. Watch out for a fever - he might develop pneumonia. Ask your Dr how to rinse your son's nose out with a saline solution (2 cups warm water, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking soda (NOT baking powder). He might be old enough so you can use a bulb syringe or nettie pot on him, but your Dr should be able to tell you what to do. Watch out for croup. He might wake up in the night having a hard time breathing (feels like his throat is closing up - if he can describe it to you). In that case, get him in the bathroom, close the door and run the shower on hot to build up a steamy room quickly) and call the Dr.



answers from Minneapolis on

The only thing I'd worry about is pneumonia but it doesn't exactly sound like that. Rattly chest is sign of that with a fever usually.

Cough Syrup is not recommended for little ones.

Try steaming up a bathroom with letting the shower run hot and take him in the bathroom, try humidifiers or boiling hot water on the stove, try vicks vapor rub!



answers from Davenport on

H. , take him in . My daughters sadly have been like this and have needed to use a nebulizer to clear out all of this "junk". He could also have an ear infection on top of this, we just went through this at our house no fever no tugging at ears yet four of us had ear infections. Good luck!


answers from Minneapolis on

Doctor's recommend Delsym cough suppressant because it has the highest amount of dextromethorphan in the Active Ingredients. That is the cough suppressant.

It's that first congestion that is making his cough so bad. Dripping down his throat, building up. Mucinex is also recommended if there's mucus in the cough... for people like my son who refuses to blow his nose.



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi H.-
my son just went to the doctor yesterday with the same thing and he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He is now on antibiotics and after 3 doses seems to be getting better. Has he had a fever? We dealt with an on and off fever for several days. I would worry, and then the fever would go down and I thought he was getting better, and then it would spike again. I would at least call you doctor and see if they want him seen or can give you a guidleline for when to take him in to the doctor or urgent care....it will give you peace of mind. Also, it is my understanding that cough medicine is not safe for a 2.5 year old. Check with your doctor on this too- it is a serious safety issue.
Good luck and I hope he feels better soon!!



answers from Minneapolis on

Hi H.....obviously, I am not a doctor but my now 6 year old has had trouble like you are talking about off and on. Coughing that just wont stop (no matter what we try) for prolonged times. To make a long story short, our ped has decided that he has "Cough Varient Asthma".....in lay terms, when you have a cold and congestion, your body coughs to keep fluid out of the lungs. In some cases (like my sons) his body just "overreacts" and coughs as a reflex more then coughing to keep fluid out. The result is CONSTANT coughing....I feel so bad for him. It certainly doesn't happen to him with every cold, but it happens from time to time. When we start getting the Asthma cough we have a nebulizer at home that we do and that keeps things at bay. Just something to keep in mind if you find this happening often.



answers from Minneapolis on

It sounds like you're going through the same thing as I did when my daughter was about that same age. Everytime she would get a cold she'd get this horrible cough that would keep her (and us) up all night. Sometimes it'd be so bad she'd even vomit in bed. We took her to the hospital one night when it was bad and they diagnosed her with bronchialitis and gave her a nebulizer for a couple hours. They sent us home with a prescription for a couple of inhalers as well. The doctor said at that age it is common for some kids to get a form of asthma from colds and when they contiuously cough like that it will irritate the bronchial tubes causing the bronchialitis (an infection/inflamtion of the bronchial tubes). So, for the next couple of years whenever she'd get a cold with a bad cough we would use the inhalers, which seemed to help. The good news is that she outgrew the problem and is 12 now with no asthma or anything like that.
Your son may not have the same problem, but I thought I'd mention it in case it is a similar situation. Good luck and I hope you and your son get some relief and sleep soon.



answers from Colorado Springs on

It might sound a little off the wall but I have tried this and had mixed results.

Try putting some Vicks vapor rub on the bottom of his feet using generous amounts and then put socks on over that. I have been using it on myself and my son lately when we are having coughing fits and it does seem to quiet the cough somewhat although I have yet to have 100% success with it.

Good luck!



answers from Minneapolis on

H., it could be a sinus infection. It's really hard to tell in little kids. Our ped, who is great, even overlooked this several times. Our son coughed for a long time - like months. We finally took him in to an ear nose throat doc and he said, "well, before we do anything else, we need to take care of this sinus infection!". I was shocked. His only symptom was minor stuffiness and a bad cough. It was the phlem running down his throat that caused the coughing. If your insurance allows it, take him to an ENT. If not, ask your Ped directly about a sinus infection. In the meantime, try the kids version of Musinex rather than cough meds. Good luck! I'd love to hear how that turns out for you!



answers from Minneapolis on

My son has asthma and has had pneumonia 5 or 6 times just in the last year [diagnosed- I am almost positive there was one other time, too]. It's always a possibility, because a couple of times my son had it without a fever or any other symptoms- just a deep cough. When my son was hospitalized with pneumonia you couldn't tell, because he was still running around and playing and being his normal self while I was chasing after him with his IV. Sometimes you can tell by watching the lungs..the skin will pull into the ribs a little bit [called retracting]. Even if it's not pneumonia it could be croup or whooping cough or some other respiratory infection. I say definitely bring him in just to be sure, and to help him get over it sooner. They'll probably give you antibiotics and maybe a steroid if it's bad enough.
You might want to try to limit his milk intake for now because that contributes to the mucus production. Also, ask your Dr about the cough liquid- it's my understanding young children should not take it.

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