Adult Cough vs. Child Cough: What’s the Difference?


Coughing as a symptom or a condition affects both adults and children. People of all ages cough since it’s one of the ways the body protects itself.

It is essentially a reflex action, and actually helps clear the throat and remove irritants and mucus from the airways. [1] While people of all ages can get a severe cough, the methods, treatment and causes for it could be vastly different. We’re going to look at some differences between an adult coughing versus a child coughing:

1. Intensity & Frequency
Children tend to cough more frequently and forcefully than adults due to their smaller airways and less developed respiratory muscles.[2] So, even if the underlying cause for the cough may be the same, a child’s cough can sound significantly worse than an adult’s cough.

2. Common Cough
Children and adults are susceptible to different kinds of cough. Children may suffer through a cough as a symptom of a respiratory infection, such as a cold or flu, which can lead to a wet cough that produces phlegm. However, adults are more likely to experience a dry, hacking cough that is associated with allergies or irritants.[3]

3. Timing & Duration
It has been observed that children are prone to coughing more at night and it may become more persistent during those hours. In addition, a cough might even last several weeks or months in a child.[4] This usually occurs due to the narrow airways in children, which makes it harder for them to clear mucus and irritants. In contrast, adults may experience coughing bouts during the day, but their coughs are usually less severe and do not last as long as a child’s cough.

4. Treatment
Cough syrup is a common treatment amongst all age groups for treating a cough but, it is important to choose the right type of cough syrup for each age group. Cough syrups with codeine in them are not recommended for children under 12 years old since it can lead to severe side effects.[5] Instead cough syrups for children usually contain a lower dose of the active ingredient such as dextromethorphan or guaifenesin, which helps to suppress coughing and loosen mucus respectively. Additionally, cough syrups for adults may also contain a combination of active ingredients, including antihistamines and decongestants, to treat the underlying cause of the cough.[6]

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Provides effective relief for people aged 12 and up. This product, too, is naturally sourced from dry ivy leaf and has been clinically proven effective.

Helixia® is a registered trademark of Norwell Consumer Healthcare Inc.

This product may not be right for you. Please read and follow the label before use.


[1]Anatomy and neuro-pathophysiology of the cough reflex arc. NIH:

[2]Children and Air Pollution. American Lung Association:

[3]Cough: are children really different to adults? NIH:

[4]What is a cough? Boston Children's Hospital:

[5]Codeine-containing medicinal products for the treatment of cough or cold in pediatric patients. EMA:

[6]Frequently Asked Question on Children’s Cough and Cold Medicines.FDA:


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