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How do I stop this persistent cough?

Health - By Dr Ombeva Malande

Dear Dr Ombeva,

I need your help please. I have a two-year-old son who constantly has a cough. He has been on medication but it doesn’t seem to go away. Ever since he was born, I have given him Cod Liver O il. The doctors we have seen say it may be an allergy but they can’t ascertain its cause. Of late, he coughs mostly at night and I am worried. Please assist. Your help is most appreciated.


Dear Mercy,

Thanks for your question. Sorry about your frustration regarding your child’s persistent cough. Your child most likely has a form of cold allergy, which many other kids get; coughing when it is very cold, especially at night.

Realise this is different from allergic rhinitis where they cough, sneeze, have a blocked or runny and itchy teary eyes among other signs when exposed to irritants like dust, perfumes, and even cold.

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You do not need to give any antibiotic for your child unless the child gets fever and clear signs of infection, in which case visiting a doctor to evaluate the child and write a prescription would be the ideal next step. Cod liver oil has no proven role or benefit in this case. The children usually outgrow this allergy by age five-seven years.

For now, clothe the child warmly at night; in overalls, or long-sleeved warm top with trousers and socks because kids don’t like a blanket to cover them in the night.

Syrup cetirizine is the other accompanying option. Give 5ml before bed, every night on very cold nights, or if the cough becomes worse in the night. So you can use the cetirizine syrup as on and off, as you wait for the child’s immunity to grow to adult immunity, which occurs at around five-seven years.

Some children even outgrow this allergy as early as age three-four years. Your child otherwise is OK. Don’t worry and don’t give those supplements. Instead, feed the child on a balanced and normal diet. Enjoy and celebrate motherhood.

- Dr Ombeva Malande is a paediatrics and child health expert

coughing health

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