I see kids all the time that have a cough. Of course some coughs are serious, but most coughs are NOT. In fact, cough is generally a protective response. Without cough we would be unable to clear things out of our lungs. If your child is ill and coughing, this is probably a GOOD thing. Try to avoid the temptation to suppress this protective mechanism of the body.
Myth #1: If my child coughs they probably have pneumonia.
This is the biggest myth and appropriately #1 on this list. True, your child may cough if they have pneumonia, but most cases of cough are minor, self-limited, and have nothing to do with infection in the lung (pneumonia). Cough is normally caused by post-nasal drip, the fancy way of saying that all the congestion in your nose is running down your throat. This drainage stimulates the cough response and helps keep this drainage from running down into your lungs. Thus cough is GOOD – without it you would very quickly get pneumonia.
Myth #2: If my child coughs they need a cough medicine.
False again. Cough is a NORMAL physiologic response. If your child is coughing and you try to stop it, you will likely make your child worse. Many of the medications prescribed for cough are, at best, worthless, and at worst, harmful. You should avoid treating cough if at all possible. If the cough is particularly troublesome, especially at night, you should try a teaspoon of honey for children over 12 months old. This simple home remedy has been shown to be more effective than any prescription medication and, more importantly, safe.
Myth #3: If my child coughs they probably need a breathing treatment.
False again. While it is possible that some children with asthma may have lots of cough, this is the exception and not the rule. Breathing treatments for routine cough are useless and have many side-effects. Avoid them unless there is some concern for asthma.
Fact #1: Cough is worse at night
Very true and this relates to the nasal drainage mentioned above. When you lie flat the drainage that runs down your throat is worse. This is the most common source of cough. Read the section on nasal congestion for advice on how to treat congestion and its by-product, cough.
Fact #2: The FDA removed the indication for over-the-counter cold and cough medication in children.
This concept has been studied extensively for decades and there is absolutely no convincing evidence that children get any meaningful benefit from cold and cough medications. On the other hand there is a wealth of information showing that these medications are harmful and have even resulted in the death of several children. The FDA wisely removed the indication for children in 2007. Click here for the public health advisory released by the FDA.
Fact #3: Cough is good.
This of course should be obvious by now. Cough protects the lungs. Without it we would get all kinds of harmful things down in our lungs. Suppressing the cough response is not a good idea and in some situations and may even be dangerous.