6 Common Causes of Nighttime Toddler Coughing and Its Treatment

For a mother, there is nothing more relaxing then her newborn or toddler finally going to bed for a restful sleep. This is perhaps the only time that she gets in the whole day that she can devote to herself. However, this feeling can vaporize quickly the moment she hears her child coughing at night. It has been observed that toddlers tend to cough more at night causing many sleepless moments for parents and caregivers. Nighttime toddler coughing can be caused due to a variety of reasons. The causes range from something as common as a cough or cold to allergies, reflux, and even asthma.[1,2,3]

Generally, Nighttime Toddler Coughing is not a cause for concern and usually resolves with minimal treatment. It is often the result of an environmental pathogen like a virus. In majority of the cases, the symptoms that accompany the cough are good enough to determine the cause of it. Treatment becomes much easier once a diagnosis is known.[1,2,3] The article below highlights some of the common causes of Nighttime Toddler Coughing and ways to manage the condition.

6 Common Causes of Nighttime Toddler Coughing And Its Treatment

Some of the common causes for Nighttime Toddler Coughing include

  1. Postnasal Drip Cough: The airways in the body have a coating of mucous the function of which is to trap and eliminate any debris, irritants, and allergens. It also helps in people fighting infection. However, there are certain conditions that cause excessive build-up of mucous which then starts to drip down the throat. This is what is termed as postnasal drip. This is the most common cause of Nighttime Toddler Coughing.[3]

    Treatment: Postnasal drip does not require any aggressive treatments. Just elevating the head eases off the coughing caused by it. If it is observed that the intensity of the cough increases during certain weather conditions or after eating something or playing out then it may be a case of allergy and the allergen should be identified and the condition treated accordingly.[3]

  2. Barking Cough: Known as Croup it is quite a common cause for Nighttime Toddler Coughing. It is seen mainly in children between 6 months to 3 years in age. The cough resembles the sound of barking and gets worse at night. Other symptoms associated with it include problems breathing, hoarseness, and fever. It is also seen that sometimes Barking Cough is preceded by cold like symptoms. It is basically caused by inflammation and swelling of the vocal cords and the larynx. It is seen more commonly in boys than girls.[3]

    Treatment: Nebulized epinephrine is believed to be quite an effective treatment for barking cough even in severe cases. Sleeping with a humidifier is also at times effective but not always.[3]

  3. Whooping Cough: This also is one of the causes for Nighttime Toddler Coughing. The primary symptom of this condition is the whooping sound that is made by toddlers when they try to breathe in air and find it difficult to do so. However, there is vaccine available for this condition and in many cases the symptoms and very mild and hardly noticeable. However, for children who have not been vaccinated for this condition may get severe symptoms which at times can be life-threatening for infants.[3]

    Treatment: Since bacterial infection is the primary cause of whooping cough, antibiotics are the best treatment for it. It is vital for the toddler to be hydrated adequately while receiving treatment and plenty of fluids should be given to the child. Also, eating small and frequent meals is good as it prevents episodes of vomiting that can occur with a bout of severe coughing.[3]

  4. Childhood Asthma: This is perhaps the most common cause of Nighttime Toddler Coughing. Studies estimate that over 6 million children in the United States have asthma. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, chest tightness, shallow breathing, worsening of symptoms with exposure to environmental allergens like dust or smoke.[3]

    Treatment: It is best to consult with a pediatrician if any of the above symptoms are noticed. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential to prevent any complications from developing due to childhood asthma.[3]

    There are a variety of treatment options available for treating asthma. Quick relief inhalers and long term treatment are all beneficial for treating asthma.[3]

  5. Cough with Vomiting: If Nighttime Toddler Coughing is accompanied with vomiting, then it can be very uncomfortable for children. This usually happens when the mucous that has accumulated is not able to be coughed out by the children. In some cases, coughing with vomiting is a sign of a much serious medical condition like pneumonia.[3]

    It is important for parents and caregivers to monitor the symptoms very closely if cough is accompanied by vomiting. If pneumonia is the underlying cause there will be additional symptoms to include chest discomfort, increased respiratory rate, fever, and chills. The child will be fatigued.[3]

    Treatment: If parents or caregivers suspect that pneumonia may be causing the symptoms then it is recommended to take the child to the emergency room immediately for treatment. A course of antibiotics is the most effective and preferred way to treat Nighttime Toddler Coughing caused by pneumonia.[3]

  6. Cough with Fever: Having fever with Nighttime Toddler Coughing is quite common and is not a cause of worry. Just observing the child is good enough to see if the symptoms become worse. Along with coughing and fever, a child with flu may have spells of vomiting and appetite loss.[3]

    Treatment: There is not a lot of treatment required in these cases. However, it is essential for the child to be hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids and take ample amount of rest. If symptoms worsen then a consultation with a physician is recommended to look for other causes of cough and fever.[3]

    It should also be noted that in the time of the current pandemic it is advisable to get the child checked up for COVID-19 as fever and coughing are the most common symptom of this infection. This is more important if the child has been outside and around people in community events where there is a high likelihood of contracting the infection.[3]

    Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are the most preferred treatments for Nighttime Toddler Coughing with fever. It should be noted that aspirin should not be given to children. For children tested positive for COVID-19, self-isolation and rest is required. If the symptoms worsen, then the child should be taken to the hospital or emergency room for treatment.[3]

When To Contact A Physician For Nighttime Toddler Coughing?

When cough is accompanied by other symptoms then a consultation with a physician is required. It is recommended to consult a physician if a toddler is running a fever, coughing up blood, has problems swallowing, and symptoms that do not resolve after two or more weeks.[3]

In conclusion, there are various for Nighttime Toddler Coughing. However, just with the sound of the cough many of the underlying condition that may cause it can be identified. Once a cause is identified it becomes easier for the physician to formulate a treatment plan for best symptom relief.[1,2,3]

If Nighttime Toddler Coughing is accompanied by fever, it is best to consult with a physician and get tested for COVID-19. This is essential especially if the child has been out at community events where the chances of contracting the infection are quite high. In majority of the cases however there is nothing to worry about Nighttime Toddler Coughing and it is not caused by something very serious.[1,2,3]

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