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  • Children may also cough when they have a cold because of mucus trickling down the back of the throat. If your child is feeding, eating and breathing normally and there is no wheezing, a cough is not usually anything to worry about. But if your child has a bad cough that won’t go away, see your GP. 
  • If your child has a temperature and cough and/or is breathless, this may indicate an infection on the chest. If the cause is bacteria and not a virus, your GP will prescribe antibiotics to treat this – although it won’t soothe or stop the cough straight away.
  • If a cough continues for a long time, especially if it is more troublesome at night or is brought on by your child running about, it might be a sign of asthma. Some children with asthma also have a wheeze or some breathlessness. If your child has any of these symptoms, he or she should be seen by your GP. If your child seems to be having trouble breathing, contact your GP, even in the middle of the night.
  • Although it is distressing to hear your child cough, in fact, coughing serves a purpose. When there is phlegm on the chest, or mucus from the nose runs down the back of the throat, coughing clears it away. Most doctors believe cough mixtures do not work and are a waste of money. To ease your child’s cough, give him or her plenty of warm, clear fluids to drink. If your child is over the age of one, try a warm drink of lemon and honey. There is no need to try to stop the cough completely.


Many doctors are now reluctant to prescribe antibiotics for common illnesses such as colds, or may adopt a ‘wait-and-see’ policy to make sure an infection is caused by bacteria. Not only are antibiotics ineffective against viruses, but inappropriate use of these can result in the child developing a resistant infection in the future. If your child is prescribed antibiotics, always make sure the course is finished, even if your child seems better.

We are indebted to Health Promotion England for their help in compiling this section.