Newborn Cough – What to Look for and How to Help

Written By Alla Levin
June 29, 2021

Newborn Cough – What to Look for and How to Help

Becoming a parent is a life-changing event in the best way possible. Not everything involved with taking care of a newborn is easy, though. Whether you are new to the parenting game or have already raised multiple children, it is always important to know the different meanings or reasons for a newborn cough and how you can help.

While coughing is often considered a normal activity in life, it is important to ensure your baby is healthy and not facing any issues being alerted by the cough. Let’s take a deeper look into what could be causing the cough when it is time to get a Doctor involved and how you can remedy the cough.

Explaining the Cough

A cough is ultimately an action to clear one’s airways of anything that could be in the way or causing irritation. Coughing is a natural defense our body uses to clear our airways so we can comfortably breathe and secure ourselves. This means coughing can be a reaction to inflammation of the alveoli, trachea, bronchi, or larynx, or it could even be a reaction to an external factor, such as smoke, dust, or pollen. This begins to explain that there are many factors possible when determining why your baby is coughing.

Specific Reasons for the Cough

There are multiple reasons your newborn could be experiencing a cough, including:

How to Help Newborn cough: allergieshow to help newborn cougha

Allergies are often the cause of the cough due to changing weather and pollen to pet hair or pollution. To limit or avoid their exposure to these irritants, it is helpful to fully clean your house, specifically the air in rooms where your baby spends most of their time.

The Flu or a Common Cold

The flu and common colds are also quite often the reason for a cough. These can be tricky to treat, as they are viruses that your baby will need to grow immunity towards. Flu vaccines are only an option for children that are at least six months old. If your newborn faces a cold or the flu, the best thing to do is treat their symptoms while their body fights off the virus.


Croup occurs when the trachea, or windpipe, is infected. The cough that comes with croup usually sounds close to bark due to the infection being higher up in your baby’s respiratory system. The good news with croup is that it is known not to last too long – usually only four to five days.


Due to inflammation in the lungs’ airways, this is a chronic condition that tends to cause bad coughing fits during the nighttime. These are known to be small episodes of intense coughing. These fits can be triggered by anything like pet hair, pollen, strenuous exercise, or dust. Watch to see if your baby has coughing fits during the night, but not during the day, as that could be a sign of asthma.

Other Possible Reasons for Cough

The above possibilities that explain a cough are quite common for babies, but the reasons below could also apply:

  • Bronchitis – This is an inflammation of the bronchi and is viral. It is known to subside within seven to ten days;
  • RSV – This stands for the respiratory syncytial virus and involves an infection of the respiratory tract. This commonly reacts as cold in most children but can occasionally manifest into difficulty breathing or wheezing – if so, see a doctor immediately. This virus is specific to each child, so monitor how your baby is handling it;
  • Pneumonia occurs when the alveoli are inflamed and can either result in a viral or bacterial infection. The PCV13 vaccination is available for bacterial pneumonia, but there is no vaccination to treat the viral infection.;
  • Reflux – This can happen if your baby’s food gets backed up in their little stomach, causing them to bring it back up through coughing and spit. The best advice to eliminate infant reflux would involve changing their feeding patterns, such as giving them smaller portions more often and holding them upright more after feeding.

Next, let’s discover what each different type of cough correlates to which issue.

Each Type of CoughEach Type of Cough

  • Wheezing cough – This could be pneumonia, a cold, or bronchitis.
  • Itchy, Dry cough – This correlates to allergies, the flu, or a cold.
  • Short, Bark-like cough – This type of cough points to croup.
  • Wet cough – This could point to pneumonia or bronchitis.
  • Nighttime cough – This usually occurs with your newborn draining congestion, but remember, it could also be a sign of asthma.
  • Stridor – This is a sharp, noisy inhale rather than the wheeze of an exhale. This could occur from croup, something stuck in the airway or a dangerous infection.
  • Whooping cough – This one connects directly to whooping cough and can be treated with antibiotics.

Now that all of the various coughs and their levels of danger have been covered, it is important to know what you can do to help your baby feel more comfortable while they are facing the cough.

How to help newborn cough

When your child is not feeling well, you obviously want to do whatever you can to help them. Some of the best ways are logical and thoughtful. Remember that if any symptoms worsen or you notice any danger, you bring your baby to the doctor right away.

Rest is quite possibly the best for your baby, so they can fight off whatever cough they are facing. A relaxing chest rub could also aid them in comfort and help them sleep. Getting a humidifier to help your newborn with congestion will help ease their discomfort and provide them warm liquids to soothe their upset throat. Other specific tips include having your baby sleep more upright and providing them cool, refreshing air to breathe.

Whichever irritant or issue is causing the cough, it will hopefully go away soon with extra love and care. Again, if conditions worsen at all, please seek medical attention right away. Hopefully, you both will soon be catching some zzz’s!

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