Diagnosing Your Baby's Cough: When to See a Doctor

Posted on: 11 December 2015

If your baby coughs, it's not necessarily an emergency. But you will still want to diagnose the cough to determine if it is more serious and if you should visit a doctor.

Consider Your Baby's Age

If your baby is younger than four months old, you shouldn't expect any coughing. If you do notice coughing, this can indicate something serious that your doctor should investigate.

Determine If Your Baby is Choking

First, try to open your baby's mouth to determine if there is anything inside. Your baby might have swallowed something that he or she is choking on. Determine if your baby is struggling to breathe.

Determine Whether the Cough is Dry or Wet

A dry cough is usually a sign that your baby has a cold or allergies. Look for evidence of a runny nose or a sore throat, which can suggest that your baby is suffering from either of these. If your baby has a sore throat, he or she will likely appear visibly uncomfortable swallowing and may cry in a manner that sounds scratchy.

A wet cough is often the result of a respiratory problem. The mucus that your baby is coughing up contains white blood cells designed to fight the infection. You might want to take your baby to see the doctor because he or she might need an antibiotic to treat the infection.

Listen for a Barking Cough

If your baby has a cough that sounds like a bark, this could be because your baby might have a swelling of the larynx and windpipe. To help sooth the swelling, take your baby into the bathroom. Close the door and run the shower. The steam will build-up and the swelling might then go down, helping to alleviate the barking cough.

Listen for a Deep Breath After the Cough

Your baby might cough repeatedly, only to take a deep breath after a long series of coughs. This is referred to as a whooping cough. Getting the pertussis vaccine can prevent your child from getting the whooping cough.

Consider Whether Your Baby Was Recently Sick

Your baby's cough may not mean that your baby actually has a cold or infection. Some babies cough after becoming sick simply out of habit.

When in doubt call your baby's doctor and provide the doctor with a list of symptoms. Your doctor will be able to assess whether your baby should be brought in for a checkup. While many coughs clear up in a few days, ask your doctor when you should call back if the cough continues. You may also want to ask if it's okay to use a natural baby cough syrup to help soothe the throat and lessen the coughing.