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Worried Sick Parents

Azriela Jaffe

Your son suddenly develops a bright red rash but doesn’t seem bothered by it. Your daughter can’t shake her chronic cough. Should you head to the nearest emergency room, or can you simply wait it out? Advice from the experts.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Coughing Don’t Worry: Coughing Parents frequently get nervous when their child is coughing, but it’s a normal reflex to help clear the airways, not a dangerous or necessarily worrisome symptom. The nose, throat, windpipe, and even the ears have receptors that produce coughing when stimulated by irritants we breathe in normally. Coughing is necessary to remove the irritant or foreign material from the respiratory tract before it reaches the lungs. Dust, particulate matter in the air, and noxious fumes are common causes of coughing due to stimulation of airway receptors. Frequent or chronic coughing is most commonly associated with postnasal drip, which is nasal drainage down the back of the throat. Postnasal drainage is common with acute viral respiratory infections (colds), allergic rhinitis (allergic irritation of the nose), and nonallergic rhinitis. Coughing from postnasal drip frequently is worse at night when lying down, due to gravity and position. Sore throat, especially in the morning, is an associated symptom. When a cough becomes frequent or persistent, the upper airway can become more sensitive, and the cough is generated with less stimulus. Many times parents describe “nonstop coughing” and worry that the child will stop breathing. Coughing episodes, even if prolonged, are not typically associated with cessation of breathing in an otherwise normal child.

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