Updated 25 July 2014

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:

Night-time cough
Is your child keeping you awake at night? This cough usually creeps up during the night while your child is sleeping, and could be related to an allergy (hair from cats or dogs, or dust), or asthma.

Asthma is a long-term (chronic) disease of the respiratory system that affects the tubes carrying air to the lungs. It involves the widespread narrowing of the airways and leads to coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. The condition often develops in childhood or during the teens.

Listen here and find out more.

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.

Find out by listening to this clip.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

The audio clips above have been reproduced with kind permission by Prof Eugene Weinberg, paediatric specialist at Red Cross Hospital, Cape Town.

(Health24, 2007)


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Cough Expert

Dr Dave Reece studied at UCT and qualified as a GP in 1974. He has been in practice as a GP since 1977. Dr Reece currently has a general family practice in Goodwood and is a cough expert for Health24.

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