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By Health Promotion Board in collaboration with Dr. Yvonne Ng, Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology, National University Hospital.

It can be troubling to hear your little one coughing or wheezing. Coughing may be very normal but wheezing is not.

Coughing is the body’s way of clearing mucus and other irritating substances. Your baby may cough as a result of irritants affecting his nose, throat, airways and lungs. The occasional cough, especially if your baby is recovering from a cold, is also expected and there is no need to stop it. Severe coughing with high fever and breathing difficulties may indicate your baby has a lung infection (pneumonia).

Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound when your baby breathes out. It may indicate an infection or inflammation of the small airways of the lungs. 

Coughing and wheezing can be signs of acute bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis occurs in infants and children less than two years old. It is caused by viruses that infect the small breathing airways, commonly the Respiratory Synctial Virus (RSV).

Treatment is supportive—to help your little one feel better while he recovers on his own. If your baby has a fever, you can give him paracetamol for relief. Make sure that your baby continues to feed on breast milk/formula to avoid dehydration.

Babies who are severely affected with bronchiolitis (e.g. breathing difficulties, unable to feed well) may need hospital admission for oxygen therapy and intravenous hydration.

Related: First Days of Our Lives with Baby

Should I See a Doctor

Monitor the situation and see a doctor if you note the following red flags:

  • Your child has difficulty breathing, e.g. breathing faster than usual, indrawing (sucking) of chest wall and ribs, wheezing sounds
  • Your child has a high fever, i.e. temperatures above 38.0 degrees Celsius
  • Your child is unable to feed well

Related: Common Childhood Conditions—Fever

Let's Clear the Air

A clean environment can reduce irritants that might be causing your child to cough. Avoid exposing your baby to second-hand cigarette smoke or smoky places in general.

Let’s clear the air so that your baby can breathe easy, and you can rest easy.