Why Does Baby Cough All the Time?

My baby has a cough that never goes away. Is it normal for baby to have a chronic cough?
ByJeffrey Berkowitz, MD
Pediatrician
Updated
Mar 2017
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Photo: Getty Images

Coughs are a pretty common symptom of loads of harmless childhood illnesses, from colds to the flu. In some ways, coughing is actually a good thing — it’s a reflex that helps protect baby’s throat and chest airways. But it’s also a signal of an irritation in baby’s air passages: the lungs or throat.

If the cough lasts for more than three to four weeks, it’s considered chronic and isn’t typically normal for infants. Common infectious causes of chronic cough include RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), pertussis (whooping cough) and tuberculosis. Noninfectious causes include gastroesophageal reflux, asthma, exposure to cigarette smoke,  cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies. So it’s definitely important to have baby’s doctor check him out.

To treat a cough, it’s not recommended for infants to have cough medicine, but you can try non-medicinal treatments like bulb suctioning and using a cool-mist humidifier in baby’s room, and putting baby in a more elevated position can be helpful. You should see your pediatrician if your baby has any trouble breathing, is breathing more quickly than usual, has a blue color to his lips or face, has a fever over 100.5 degrees Fahrenheit (if baby is less than two months old) or is feeding poorly. Your pediatrician will discuss the symptoms and do a thorough physical exam, including listening closely to baby’s lungs.

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