Understanding when to be concerned about a cough is tricky. Dr. Christina Johns of PM Pediatrics is here with her metrics on when to get your child to the doctor.
Parents can have a difficult time dealing with the loose cough.
This one is a little trickier to decipher, for myself included. A loose cough often means that it is also productive, which of course opens up the can of worms of, “What color is the mucus?” While green/yellow mucus doesn’t always indicate pneumonia, when there’s a loose cough I want to make absolutely sure pneumonia isn’t happening–especially in the presence of fever. But just as often as not, fever and a loose, junky cough that echoes throughout the tri-state area can be caused by a viral upper respiratory infection as well as pneumonia. A lung exam can help differentiate between the two. When there are crackly noises heard through the stethoscope, especially when they are on one side and don’t go away with coughing, then I lean more towards pneumonia as opposed to a viral URI. Clear lungs are reassuring regardless of the sound of the cough. The bottom line is that a loose cough does not automatically mean that a child has pneumonia.
Here's when your child should see a doctor.
A toxic-appearing child who is working so hard to breathe that she can’t adequately oxygenate or hydrate, or a cough that seemed to get better and then get worse, or any extra sounds while breathing at rest are all reasons for concern. Beyond that, understand that there are different types of cough and that, when considered in isolation, they aren’t always perfectly diagnostic–but the differences can help sort out the underlying cause, to a certain degree.
My advice? Pay attention to the cough nuances but don’t always hook your star to a specific diagnosis if that cough sounds rattle-y and kind of loose. Just make sure you get it checked out.
Main Image: Dr. Christina Johns. Courtesy PM Pediatrics