Medications for Chronic Cough

At Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, treatment of children with a chronic cough depends on the underlying cause. After our doctors have identified the source of your child’s symptoms, they can select the most effective medical therapy. Most children with a chronic cough feel better within a few weeks of starting treatment, especially if the cause is a bacterial infection.


If your child has a bacterial infection, our doctors may prescribe broad-spectrum antibiotics for two weeks or longer. These medications are effective against many types of bacteria, eliminating them from the airways. The antibiotic chosen depends on both the type of bacteria found in your child’s mucus and the results of other tests, such as bronchoscopy, which allow the doctor to look inside a child’s airways for changes caused by bronchial infections.

Antibiotics can be given by mouth or through the veins with an intravenous (IV) infusion, depending on the severity of the infection. Symptoms usually disappear 10 to 14 days after antibiotic treatment begins.

Asthma Medications

For children with cough-variant asthma, a breathing disorder in which coughing is the only symptom, our doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory medicines to reduce inflammation in the airways. Your child’s symptoms may gradually improve within six to eight weeks after beginning asthma treatment.

Allergy and Cough Medications

Our doctors may recommend over-the-counter antihistamines and nasal steroids to relieve allergy symptoms, which can contribute to an ongoing cough in children. Avoidance of allergy triggers such as pollen or animal dander can also help to reduce symptoms that can lead to a cough.

Our doctors do not recommend over-the-counter and prescription cough suppressants, such as those that contain dextromethorphan and codeine. These medications do not address the underlying cause and can lead to significant side effects in young children.

When a chronic cough is not caused by a bacterial infection, allergies, or asthma, a child may need other types of treatment to address the underlying cause. Our doctors make referrals to other specialists at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital who can treat less common causes of chronic cough, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease, congenital lung abnormalities, and cystic fibrosis, if needed.

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