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  • Know if Your Child's Cough Is a Sign of a Cold, the Flu or Something Worse

    Sometimes, your child’s cough can be a sign of a much more worrisome illness.
    by Kate Borbon .
Know if Your Child's Cough Is a Sign of a Cold, the Flu or Something Worse
To read this story in Tagalog, click here.
  • Last weekend, January 12, 2019, a post about a "pneumonia outbreak" in the Philippines was circulating on social media. The Department of Health (DOH) quickly shot it down, saying that it was not an outbreak, but just the flu season.

    While pneumonia is a dangerous complication of the flu, DOH pointed out there have been fewer cases of influenza-like illnesses (ILI) in 2018.

    Yesterday, January 14, 2019, however, in an interview with The Philippine Star, the former president of the Philippine Society for Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (PSMID), Rontgene Solante, said the group’s members observed that more people have been consulting them for influenza in the few past months.

    Solante attributed the increase to the early flu season “compared to previous years and mainly reflect on the unpredictability of the influenza virus.” He also noted that the “extremely low rate of our flu vaccination last year [2018]” could have been the result the scare the Dengavaxia controversy created.

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    To avoid the flu, both DOH and Solante implored Filipinos to get the flu vaccine for protection against both influenza A and B. You can prevent your child from getting the flu by giving them the flu vaccine yearly.

    Sometimes, even though you make sure your child never misses a doctor’s appointment, your child can still contract different kinds of worrying viruses and infections. One of the most troubling symptoms is coughing for the cold, flu, or pneumonia. While coughs usually go away after a while, there are some types that can be signs of serious illnesses that require your child's pediatrician's attention.

    Your guide on the different kinds of coughs your child can experience and how to deal with each of them

    Dry Cough

    What it is: This type of cough, also known as post-viral cough, produces little to no phlegm, often caused by excess mucus that has gotten stuck in the lung passages, and is usually accompanied by loud, harsh breathing. Cristan Cabanilla, M.D., a pulmonary pediatrician, says it is commonly triggered by the inflammation of some parts of the throat. It can be caused by allergic reactions and temperature changes, or the result of a recent virus, head cold, or influenza.

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    What to do: Lots of fluids and a humidifier may help. And avoid known triggers of allergic reaction. 

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    Bark-Like Cough

    What it is: According to Shyrine Suarez, R.N., this type of cough is a common symptom of the croup, which is caused by a viral respiratory infection. Croup, which can be contagious, mostly affects babies over 6 months of age and children under 6 years especially during very cold weather. Since it involves inflammation in the larynx and trachea, it makes breathing more difficult for younger children who have smaller airways.

    What to do: This type of cough can be accompanied by a whistling sound that occurs when the child inhales, and commonly starts at night. A hot shower or sitting with them in a steamy bathroom for several minutes may help (warm air can help make it easier for your child to breathe). Put a humidifier in your child’s room and give them lots of fluids. If you suspect that your child is going through something more serious, call your pediatrician for help.


    While coughs usually go away after a while, there are some types that can be signs of illnesses that are much more difficult to deal with.
    PHOTO BY iStock

    Wheezing Cough

    What it is: A type of cough that sounds raspy or gurgly, it is commonly a sign of respiratory syncytial virus (a condition that causes infections in the lungs or in the breathing passages) or of bronchiolitis (a chest infection that happens when the tiny airways in the lungs swell and fill with mucus, making it difficult for the child to breathe). For older kids, wheezing coughs can be a sign of asthma.


    What to do: You may want to consult your pediatrician how to manage the symptoms like fever, muscle aches and pains. You will also need your doctor to diagnose if it is asthma.

    Whooping Cough

    What it is: Also known as pertussis, the whooping cough can be a symptom of an infection in the respiratory system caused by a bacterium called Bordetella pertussis. Children who experience this infection usually go through coughing fits that involve whooping sounds during inhalation.

    What to do: One way to prevent your child from pertussis is by giving them the DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) vaccine. If you suspect that your child is experiencing whooping cough, call your pediatrician.

    Phlegm-filled Cough

    What it is: If this type of cough, which sounds thick, is accompanied by green phlegm, a fever, a sore throat, and watery eyes, it can be the sign of a common cold that can last from a few days to a couple of weeks.


    What to do: For colds, rest is the best prescription — don’t give them any antibiotics unless your doctor tells you. If they are having difficulty blowing their nose, you can help them by using a bulb syringe or some nasal saline drops to alleviate congestion. A humidifier and a warm bath may also be helpful for your child.

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