The most common childhood ailments include cough and sore throat. When the nerves in the pharynx (upper throat), larynx (throat), trachea or large bronchi (breathing tubes in lungs) are irritated, one experiences cough.
Similarly an inflammation or redness of the tissues result in a sore throat or pharyngitis. This disease in a more severe form may become bronchiolitis, whooping cough, pneumonia or laryngotraceitis.
There are many factors, which cause the cough and sore throat, but the most common is an infection, usually viral (like common cold) or bacterial (due to a bacteria called beta-haemolytic streptococcus), in the upper respiratory tract.
Even though it is completely normal for a child to have recurrent coughs and infections, it may point towards a more underlying problem like asthma, allergies or cystic fibrosis. At times, the cough might occur because of inhalation of any other foreign body like some small toy or food item, which gets stuck in the respiratory tract resulting in the irritation and the resultant cough.
One can also experience sore throat due to dry air (use of too much blower or heaters during winter) when the throat dries up due to breathing and becomes sore. Postnasal drip (mucus dripping down the throat) too can cause the throat to become sore.
The symptoms of cough vary depending on the type of the cough. In case of the viral infection, the coughing will normally produce a barking noise followed with harsh and rapid breathing. In whooping cough, one experiences a spasmodic cough with a whooping noise while drawing breath.
Coughs can also be associated with asthma, when you get bouts of cough more at night or when inhaling cold air. More symptoms associated with cough are fever, noisy breathing, vomiting, stuffy nose and other symptoms, which are usually common to cold.
Sore throat, on the other hand, would show symptoms like pain in the throat, especially while swallowing, sore swollen glands in neck, yellowish/whitish pus on salivary glands (which happen due to a viral infection caused by adenoviruses) and drooling of saliva.
When it is a bacterial infection, we can see signs like a swollen ovula with reddish or purple spots, while the tongue may turn dark red with white spots on it. Sometimes, people also suffer from bad breath due to the bacterial infection. The fever may run up as high as 103 in such cases.
We can treat the cough depending upon the kind of infection we have. Antibiotics (like penicillin, erythromycin etc) and cough syrups can help one to treat coughs, which are bacterial in nature. If it's a dry cough, you can buy cough suppressants to quieten down the throat irritation. In case of a postnasal drip, you can take decongestants to reduce the drip, as well as, the cough.
Taking in plenty of liquids can help, just as humidifying the air in the room does help too. You can soothe your sore throat by taking in painkillers, cold drinks, ice creams and jelly. Gargling and throat lozenges help too in soothing a sore throat. Take some medical advice as soon as your child develops any signs of cough or sore throat especially if it is a recurrent phenomenon.
At times, you just have to wait for the cause of a sore throat to die out its natural lifespan. One can however also take pain-killers (like Tylenon) to relieve himself/herself of the pain. Coughs and sore throat are usually viral infections. Since antibiotics do not work on the viruses, one should depend on the immune system of the body to get rid of the virus itself.
These are rarely dangerous and fatal in nature; the exceptions being when the infections becomes serious and turns itself into a more complex disease like pneumonia and still not receiving required attention. Using humidifiers, keeping hand in front of the mouth while sneezing or coughing can help one to prevent the spread of the infection.