Updated 05 October 2015

Identify your child's cough

Does your child have a cough that worries you? Why not listen to the sound of these coughs online to see whether any of them sound familiar.


Does your child have a cough that worries you no end? Why not listen to the sound of these coughs online to see whether any of them sound familiar. If your child's cough persists, however, you should get him/her to a doctor immediately.

Click on the coughs listed below to download a short sound clip of the respective cough:

Wheezing cough

Does your child sound as if he/she is breathing through a piece of plastic tubing? Your child's wheezing could be related to bronchitis, or even asthma.

Inflammation of the bronchi (bronchitis) can either be acute or chronic. However, children are mainly affected by acute bronchitis. This condition is caused by viruses or bacteria and is characterised by coughing, the production of mucus-containing sputum, and narrowing of the air passages.

This is what a wheezing cough sounds like:


Croup is an acute viral inflammation of the upper and lower respiratory tracts, which is accompanied by harsh, difficult breathing.

Croup often develops in the evening or night and, if it is not severe initially, might worsen during the night. It affects children between the ages of six months and three years.

The primary  difference between stridor and croup is stridor is a sign of airway obstruction, whereas croup is a syndrome that can cause stridor.


This cough is typified by a harsh, raspy, high-pitched sound when inhaling. The noise heard on breathing is when the trachea (the windpipe) or larynx (the organ that is responsible for the production of vocal sounds) is obstructed. It tends to be louder and harsher than wheezing. Stridor may be caused by the inhalation of a foreign body, or could be related to croup.

Listen to this clip to find out if your child has croup with stridor:

Whooping cough
This is a very contagious, spasmodic coughing generally ending in a high-pitched crowing called the "whoop". It is caused by the bacteria Bordetella pertussis.

Due to the coughing, the child can become exhausted and may stop breathing. It is therefore crucial to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Listen to this clip to find out if your child has this cough:

View our Asthma Guide
A-Z of chronic cough and A-Z of croup
Any questions? Ask our Paediatrician


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Cough Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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