After a pretty “cold and flu-free” autumn/winter transition last year, owing to the hard lock down during this time, “normal” respiratory infections are back with a bang this autumn!

Snots and sneezes, coughs and wheezes…we are seeing it all!

The cough is a protective reflex, essentially to protect the vulnerable chest from foreign particles, mucus and infections. An occasional cough is normal and necessary. A persistent cough is a sign that something is going on!

The average cough:

  • Can fill a 1.5 Litre bottle with air
  • Forces out 3000 small salivary /mucus droplets
  • At a speed of 80 km/hour!

Now that helps to explain why masks are needed during pandemics to prevent illnesses spread by coughs!


Where do coughs come from?

Coughs occur when our cough receptors are stimulated from mucus or irritants or inflammation. Cough receptors are scattered all over our airways! Coughs can come from:


  • Colds and flu’s causing mucus in the nose
  • Sinusitis
  • Allergies causing post-nasal drip
  • Throat infections causing throat irritation
  • Irritation of the larynx and trachea (causing laryngitis or croup)


  • the airways or bronchi (bronchiolitis, bronchitis or asthma, bronchial cancers)
  • the lung tissue itself (“alveoli’) (e.g. pneumonia, pneumonitis, lung cancer)
  • the lining of the lung (“pleura”)( e.g.certain infections or cancers involve the lining of the lungs, causing sharp pains and breathing difficulties.

When doctors have examined you/your child  for the cough, they usually comment on whether it is an “upper respiratory” condition or a “lower respiratory” condition (“it’s gone to t­­­­­he chest…”) depending on where the cough originates from. Treatments will differ according to the cause and site of origin of the cough.

What are the causes of acute coughs in children?

Acute coughs (coughs lasting less than 2 weeks) in children are most often caused by:

  • Common colds (60%)
  • Bronchitis (9%)
  • Asthma (9%)
  • Influenza/flu-like viruses (8%)
  • Croup (5%)
  • Pneumonia (5%)
  • The rest: reflux, inhaled foreign bodies, irritants eg smoke