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Dry Cough VS. Wet Cough For Kids

What's The Difference Between Wet and Dry Coughs?

Dr. Dustin Miller Profile Photo

Written by Dr. Dustin Miller on May 17, 2021

Given that there’s tons of different viruses and illnesses that can produce a cough in kids, it can be tough to know how to best treat your child’s cough. In this article, we’ll go over the most common types of coughs in kids, how to identify them, and the best treatments.

Dry vs. Wet Cough

Although some coughs might sound awful, there are several types of coughs that you can easily treat at home. For this reason, it’s important to be able to identify what kind of cough your child has. In this section, we’ll take a look at the difference between dry and wet coughs.

Dry Cough

A dry cough is one that doesn’t produce a lot of mucus or phlegm, which is why they’re also called unproductive coughs. For the most part, dry coughs are caused by allergies and asthma rather than season illnesses. That being said, kids will sometimes develop a dry cough after having a cold or the flu because there is residual mucus in their chest.

A good way to identify a dry cough is if your child complains of a tickle in their throat or they make hacking sounds while coughing. Unfortunately, dry coughs tend to stick around for a little longer than wet coughs.

Wet Cough

Wet coughs are sometimes referred to as productive coughs because they bring up phlegm and mucus. The phlegm can be different colors including white, yellow, or green. Sometimes wet coughs are accompanied by postnasal drip which can feel like mucus dripping down the throat or chest. Usually a wet cough is a sign of a viral or bacterial illness such as a common cold or the flu.

Remedies

One you’ve identified if your child has a wet or dry cough, there are several remedies that you can try to ease their cough and get them breathing more easily.

Dry Cough

Dry coughs tend to be slightly harder to get rid of than wet coughs, but there are a few remedies you can try at home to ease the symptoms of a dry cough including:

  • Giving your child a little bit of honey, which reduces cough symptoms and can make it easier to sleep. If they don’t like the flavor of honey, you can mix it in with a warm drink like tea or even plant-based milk.
  • Putting a humidifier in your child’s room to add moisture to the air or having them take a warm, steamy shower. Sometimes adding moisture to their environment can ease the chest pain that often accompanies a dry cough and soothe the cough itself.
  • Offering your kid cough drops or lozenges that they can suck on to reduce their cough symptoms. Make sure your child is old enough to suck on the cough drop without swallowing it before giving it to them.
  • Giving them salt water to gargle. Salt water can ease the irritation that often accompanies a dry cough.

Wet Cough

When your child has a wet cough, the most helpful thing you can do is help thin the mucus in their chest so it is easier to cough out. There’s a few ways to do this such as:

  • Propping your kid’s head up with a pillow while they sleep or having them sleep in a reclining chair. By elevating their head, there’s less possibility for postnasal drip, which worsens a wet cough and can be irritating for the throat.
  • Putting a humidifier in their room or having them take a steamy shower. The moisture in the air can loosen phlegm in the chest which makes it easier to cough up. If your child isn’t old enough to shower, you can run a hot shower and sit in the bathroom with them to achieve the same effect.
  • Offer them lots of liquids. Hot liquids such as tea and cold liquids like ice water are the most effective at thinning phlegm and can be the most calming to an irritated throat.

Medication

If your child is over four years old and suffering from a wet cough, consider giving them Kids’ Cough and Chest Congestion cough suppressant and expectorant. #partneringwithgenexa This powerful cough suppressant temporarily relieves cough due to minor throat and bronchial irritation that may occur with the common cold or inhaled irritants. It also helps loosen mucus to help rid the bronchial passageways of bothersome mucus, and makes coughs more productive.

When Should I Contact Our Pediatrician?

For the most part, coughs can be treated at home and do not require the attention of a doctor. However, if your kid is under four years old and has a cough, it is a good idea to call your doctor. It’s also advisable to seek medical attention if your child’s cough lasts longer than 2-3 weeks, gets progressively worse, or produces blood.

Additionally, a consistent cause for concern among parents is the threat of pneumonia, which can be a scary thing to deal with no matter how long a cough has persisted or how dry or wet it is. If you suspect your child may have contracted pneumonia or has any kind of fluid in their lungs, contact a pediatrician immediately.

Other Types of Coughs

Aside from a typical dry or wet cough, there are a few other types of coughs you should be aware of when trying to determine what type of cough your kid has.

Wheezing Cough

A wheezing cough occurs when your child wheezes or makes whistle sounds while breathing out. This kind of cough is usually the result of an issue in the lungs or lower airways. Sometimes mucus and inflammation in the lower airways causes them to narrow and spasm which can lead to wheezing. Mucus buildup and inflammation in these airways is usually triggered by a viral infection or asthma.

Croup Cough

Croup cough is most common in infants and young kids. This distinct type of cough is characterized by a kind of hoarse barking sound. It is caused by a viral or bacterial infection in the upper airway that causes swelling around the vocal cords, resulting in the distinct sound of this cough.

Alongside the cough, you can also identify if your child has croup cough if they make a squeaking sound during inhalation. They might also have a sore throat and difficult breathing, but other symptoms of respiratory illness often do not accompany croup cough.

Most cases of croup cough are mild and can be treated at home, but if your child’s cough does not seem to be improving and they are having increased difficulty breathing, it’s a good idea to call your doctor. If you think your infant has croup cough, it is advisable to take them to the doctor right away because they have developing airways that need to be monitored to ensure they stay open and clear.

Whooping Cough

One of the most severe types of cough is whooping cough, also known as pertussis. Although there is a vaccine available for whooping cough, infants and young kids are at risk of picking it up before they are immunized. Whooping cough is caused by a bacterial infection in the airways.

In the early stages of whooping cough, it sounds like a normal cold, but it gradually gets worse, especially at nighttime. Usually, you can tell if your child has whooping cough because when they try to take a deep breath they make a whooping sound.

If you think your child has whooping cough, it’s a good idea to call your doctor immediately so your child can get antibiotics as soon as possible.

Conclusion

The main difference between a dry and wet cough is whether or not they are productive or, in other words, whether or not the cough brings up phlegm or mucus. Luckily, both dry and wet coughs can be treated at home with the help of remedies and medication.



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