Cough & fever in children

Coughing and fever in children are common symptoms of a cold but also can be a symptoms of another viral or bacterial infection. Parents often feel that coughing and fever are serious, harmful conditions, but they are actually necessary to clear the body of infection. Most coughing and fever symptoms can be treated with at-home remedies and over-the-counter medications.


Coughing and fever in children can be the result of a variety of infections that are usually viral or bacterial. Viral infections include the common cold and the flu. They cannot be treated with antibiotics and must run their course that usually lasts several days. Bacterial infections can include ear infections, strep throat, bronchitis, sinus infections and pneumonia. Bacterial infections respond to antibiotic treatment and are usually cleared up within seven to 10 days.

Types of Fever

A normal temperature in children ranges from 36.1 to 37.2 degrees Carenheit. A low-grade fever in children can be from 37.2 to 38.2 degrees Carenheit while a common fever usually ranges from 38.3 to 39.7 degrees Carenheit. Serious, high fevers in children are any temperatures measuring 39.8 degrees Carenheit or higher.

Types of Coughs

Illnesses can cause a different types of coughs depending on the severity of mucus production resulting from the infection. Viral infections such as a cold and the flu as well as bacterial infections such as bronchitis and pnemonia can cause junkie and/or barky sounding coughing in children. These types of coughing sound harsh and severe but are actually effective functions of the body to rid the system of excess mucus. Strep throat, sinus infections and ear infections may cause a dry cough or non-productive cough that does not "rattle" like a junkie or barky type of coughing.

Home Treatment

Coughing can be remedied at home by creating a "sauna-type" environment in your bathroom by turning your hot water on in the shower, shutting the door and letting the water run for at least 20 minutes. Sit with your child in the bathroom while the steam develops that will allow the moisture to penetrate your child's lungs, loosening mucus and soothing the upper respiratory system. Try reading a book to your child while waiting in the bathroom steam to pass the time and decrease restlessness. Set up a vaporiser in your child's room at night to increase moisture in the air and provide coughing relief. Use a few drops of essential oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary and peppermint in the vaporiser to provide additional, cough-reducing vapours. Fevers can be treated with over-the-counter fever reducing medications such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Aspirin should never be used to treat fevers in children due to the possible development of Reye's Syndrome.

Professional Treatment

If your child is suffering from severe coughing and fever, your paediatrician may recommend the use of prescription medications to treat the symptoms. Do not use over-the-counter cough suppressants or expectorants without consulting your paediatrician. Severe infections that can cause coughing and fever such as pneumonia need immediate medical attention to prevent severe and possible fatal complications.


Fevers are usually approached by parents as a harmful condition, but a fever is actually a healthy response of a child's body to an illness and is a normal infection-fighting process. Low-grade fevers do not warrant treatment unless your child is uncomfortable and should never be treated in order to help your child's body fight an infection.

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About the Author

Tiffany Fowlkes has worked as a writer, editor and graphic designer for more than five years. She has served as a contributing staff writer, editor and graphic designer for a publishing company in the travel industry. Fowlkes holds a bachelor's degree in English and art from Sul Ross State University.