Nurse reveals 5 red flags you must never ignore if your child is coughing – and when it’s critical to dial 999

When your child is sick, hearing them cough can be distressing.

Thankfully, these noises aren’t generally a cause for concern — but they can be a sign a child needs medical attention, according to a nurse.

There are five warning signs that could mean your child needs medical attention


There are five warning signs that could mean your child needs medical attention

Pediatrician Penny who runs the website sick happenedsaid there are five warning signs in particular parents should never ignore.

In an Instagram post, the nurse highlighted the following:

1. Respite

First, if you observe your child starting to cough with pauses between breaths, they may be suffering from apnea, Penny said.

The symptom occurs when your child has almost no airflow and is having trouble breathing out and in – meaning they need to see a doctor.

It’s also common in adults, who may experience pauses in breathing during sleep — which can be dangerous.

2. Change color

According to Penny, it’s often normal for children to turn red in the face during a coughing fit.

But it could be dangerous if they turn pale, blue, or dark around the mouth, lips, or face.

“If you notice them going limp or unresponsive during these episodes, call an ambulance,” Penny said.

3. Difficulty catching your breath

Another serious symptom to look out for, according to Penny, is when teens have trouble catching their breath.

If this is the case, you may have an airway blockage, which can be serious and will require assistance.

4. Loud breathing

When a child experiences a “sudden onset,” it can be a sign of a common condition.

The nurse said, “If you notice your child developing a barking cough very suddenly, it is most likely croup.”

“Not all cases of croup need treatment, but if they’re noisy or have trouble breathing at rest, call an ambulance.”

According to the NHS, if croup is mild, the condition can be “treated at home”.

However, if symptoms persist, they should see a GP.

Doctors said: “This often involves using acetaminophen for children to relieve pain associated with the condition and may help lower your child’s temperature if they have a fever.”

“You should also make sure your child is staying hydrated by encouraging them to drink plenty of fluids.”

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5. Fever

The final key symptom to be wary of is the combination of a cough and fever, Penny said.

The pediatric expert urged parents to take their children to the doctor if they have “recently suffered from choking and retching” in addition to high fever.

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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