What are the Causes of a Dry Cough in Children?

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  • Written By: Kerrie Main
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 17 October 2019
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Dry coughing can afflict both adults and children, and it's typically an unproductive cough, because it does not produce phlegm or mucus. When a child has a dry cough, it can be very painful and may be the symptom of a more serious underlying health problem. There are many causes for dry cough in children, such as the common cold, asthma, allergies, post-nasal drip or whooping cough. Other causes might include croup, bronchiolitis, a blockage of the airway or even a symptom of an emotional issue.

The common cold is one of the most common reasons for a dry cough in children. If the cough is accompanied by a sore throat, vomiting, ear pain, a stuffy nose, or a fever, it might be a symptom of a bacterial or viral infection. This type of cough usually can be eased by the consumption of warm fluids, bed rest, and medication. Asthma coughs usually are dry, wheezing noises accompanied by breathing difficulties. A medical professional can diagnosis and treat this type of issue.

Allergies often are the culprit when the cough occurs during the spring and fall seasons. In addition, sensitivities to cigarette smoke, foods, and pet dander also can trigger a dry cough. Allergies often have many other symptoms, such as itchy, red eyes, sneezing, and a runny nose. Sometimes, simply removing the child from the allergy environment will help ease the coughing.


Post-nasal drip also causes a dry cough in children. This occurs when mucus builds up and then begins to drip down the child's throat. This might be the result of allergies, colds, or hormonal changes. Other factors that could affect this type of cough include fatigue and breathing in frigid air. Whooping cough, a bacterial infection that has made a comeback in Western society during the early 21st century, also causes a dry cough.

Younger children might suffer from dry coughing episodes if they have croup or bronchiolitis. Croup typically occurs in children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years, and it is characterized by a barking cough, hoarseness, a squealing noise during inhalation, and breathing difficulties. Coughing in children under the age of 2 years might be caused by bronchiolitis. This occurs when a respiratory syncytial virus causes inflammation of the child’s air passages. The symptoms of this include wheezing, tight-sounding coughs and difficult, rapid breathing.

When something is lodged in a child’s throat or air passageway, he or she might have a dry cough. Parents should check to see if a small toy or piece of food was accidentally swallowed and is now stuck in the child's throat. Some children also have unexplained dry coughs, which might be caused by a tickling sensation in the throat. Other children might have dry coughing that is the result of fake coughing, which is sometimes the symptom of an emotional issue or problem.


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Post 3

@fBoyle-- There are many possible causes of dry cough in children. It could also be allergies.

My son had a dry cough for the longest time because of allergies to dust. After we had our central heating and cooling system cleaned, the cough went away.

Post 2

@fBoyle-- It could be a habit cough. Have you though about speaking to a child psychologist?

A habit cough is a persistent cough that is not caused by any physical condition. It's a sign that there are underlying psychological issues. Usually, it occurs because children enjoy the attention they receive when ill and want that to continue. So it may be a sign that parents are not spending enough time with a child.

Speech therapy can be used to treat habit cough in children. But you need to see a child psychologist and make sure that habit cough is what your daughter really has.

Post 1

My daughter had a cold last month and she was coughing as a result. We treated her with children's cold medicine as the doctor suggested and the cold disappeared after a week. However, the dry cough has remained and it won't go away no matter what we try. She starts coughing as soon as she awakens and coughs throughout the day. She only doesn't cough when she's sleeping.

The doctor said that she has no other signs or symptoms of an illness. What might be causing the dry cough?

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