Skip to main navigation Skip to main content Skip to footer For Medicare For Providers For Brokers For Employers Español For Individuals & Families: For Individuals & Families Medical Dental Other Supplemental Explore coverage through work How to Buy Health Insurance Types of Dental Insurance Open Enrollment vs. Special Enrollment See all topics Shop for Medicare plans Member Guide Find a Doctor Log in to myCigna
Home Knowledge Center Wellness Library Cough Symptoms in Children

Cough Symptoms in Children

Topic Overview

A cough that is more noticeable when your child is lying down is usually caused by mucus running down the back of the throat (postnasal drip) from an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold, sinusitis, or allergy. A child usually has a runny or stuffy nose, may be irritable, and may have a fever. Home treatment is usually all that is needed to provide relief for this type of cough.

A cough during the night that sounds like a barking seal may be a sign of croup. Your child may sound hoarse with a high-pitched sound (stridor) when breathing in. Home treatment may be all that is needed in most cases. But a barking cough that continues through the day or occurs with difficulty breathing can be more serious.

A child may cough in response to emotional issues (psychogenic cough). This type of cough is present without other symptoms.

Any cough in a baby younger than 3 months, even without other symptoms, needs to be taken seriously. If the cough occurs with a change in feeding habits or decreased activity level, your child needs to be evaluated by a health professional. If your child is acting normally in every other way, simply watch him or her closely for 24 hours.

A cough that is persistent, interrupts sleep, or slows your child down needs to be watched closely. A cough is more likely to be serious if it:

  • Occurs with difficulty breathing.
  • Is persistent, especially if it interferes with sleep or other daily activities.
  • Produces mucus that appears to be from the lungs (sputum) or brings up bloody sputum.
  • Persists after a choking episode. Vomiting may also occur.
  • Comes in spasms, especially if your child is unable to catch his or her breath.

A cough that lasts longer than 3 weeks is usually a sign of an allergy, sinus infection, asthma, or reflux. But it may mean a more serious problem. A visit to your child's doctor is needed when a cough is persistent.

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated, disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Learn how we develop our content.

© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Related Links

Quick Tips: Safely Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children Coughs, Age 11 and Younger

<cipublic-spinner variant="large"><span>Loading…</span></cipublic-spinner>

Page Footer

I want to...

Get an ID card File a claim View my claims and EOBs Check coverage under my plan See prescription drug list Find an in-network doctor, dentist, or facility Find a form Find 1095-B tax form information View the Cigna Glossary Contact Cigna

Audiences

Individuals and Families Medicare Employers Brokers Providers

Secure Member Sites

myCigna member portal Health Care Provider portal Cigna for Employers Client Resource Portal Cigna for Brokers

Cigna Company Information

About Cigna Company Profile Careers Newsroom Investors Suppliers Third Party Administrators International Evernorth

 Cigna. All rights reserved.

Privacy Legal Product Disclosures Cigna Company Names Customer Rights Accessibility Non-Discrimination Notice [PDF] Language Assistance [PDF] Report Fraud Sitemap

Disclaimer

Individual and family medical and dental insurance plans are insured by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (CHLIC), Cigna HealthCare of Arizona, Inc., Cigna HealthCare of Illinois, Inc., and Cigna HealthCare of North Carolina, Inc. Group health insurance and health benefit plans are insured or administered by CHLIC, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company (CGLIC), or their affiliates (see a listing of the legal entities  that insure or administer group HMO, dental HMO, and other products or services in your state). Accidental Injury, Critical Illness, and Hospital Care plans or insurance policies are distributed exclusively by or through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, are administered by Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, and are insured by either (i) Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company (Bloomfield, CT); (ii) Life Insurance Company of North America (“LINA”) (Philadelphia, PA); or (iii) New York Life Group Insurance Company of NY (“NYLGICNY”) (New York, NY), formerly known as Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. The Cigna name, logo, and other Cigna marks are owned by Cigna Intellectual Property, Inc. LINA and NYLGICNY are not affiliates of Cigna.

All insurance policies and group benefit plans contain exclusions and limitations. For availability, costs and complete details of coverage, contact a licensed agent or Cigna sales representative. This website is not intended for residents of New Mexico.

Selecting these links will take you away from Cigna.com to another website, which may be a non-Cigna website. Cigna may not control the content or links of non-Cigna websites. Details