Barking Coughs in Children

Topic Overview

If your child has a barking cough:

  • Hold your child in a calming manner.
  • Keep your child quiet, if possible. Crying can make breathing more difficult. Try rocking or distracting your child with a book or game.
  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Don't use a hot vaporizer. Use only water in the humidifier. Hold your child in your lap, and let the cool vapor blow directly into your child's face.
  • If there is no improvement after several minutes, take your child into the bathroom and turn on the shower to create steam. Close the door and stay in the room while he or she breathes in the moist air for several minutes. Make sure your child is not burned by the hot water or steam. Do not leave your child alone in the bathroom.
  • If there is still no improvement, bundle your child up and go outside in the cool night air.

If none of these techniques work after you have tried them for about 30 minutes, call your doctor or seek medical attention at an emergency facility.

If your child's symptoms improve with these methods and he or she feels better, put your child back in bed with the humidifier blowing nearby.

  • Sleep in your child's room for the rest of the night.
  • Offer your child plenty of fluids to drink. Try offering a favorite drink several times each hour. You can try flavored ice treats, such as Popsicles, or crushed ice drinks.
  • Do not smoke in the house or car when you are traveling with your child.
  • Repeat the above techniques if the barking cough returns.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
David Messenger, MD
Last Revised December 21, 2011

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