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Children's Health

Bronchiolitis in children

03/27/2009

Question:

My daughter is five and started kindergarten in August. Since then, she has had bronchiolitis twice. She kept a really bad cough for a month both times. Her doctor did x-rays and said that was all he could find wrong with her, but nothing seems to help the cough. She throws up (or coughs up) clear, slimy, mucus. Noone else I`ve talked to, says their child coughs mucus up like she does. Is that normal? Could this be something more than just bronchiolitis? Thanks for your time in advance.

Answer:

It can be hard to tell, when a child coughs/vomits out mucus, exactly where it is coming from.  Mucus that is vomited could come actually be nasal drainage that has been swallowed (from allergy or sinus infection), from the stomach (if no food's been eaten recently,) or from the lungs.

If mucus is coming up out of the lungs during coughing, usually 5 year olds swallow it - and it only is seen if they later vomit.  If a child this age directly coughs out sputum from their lungs, it makes me worry that there's quite a bit down there.  Whooping cough is one disease that can cause this - but normally a child wouldn't get that twice.  Children having an asthma flare sometimes make a lot of mucus - usually they throw this up rather than cough it directly out.  Asthma would be the most common reason for the symptoms you describe.

If your daughter keeps having these episodes, and her primary care doc continues to be at a loss, it would be reasonable to ask for a referral to a pulmonary specialist - especially if you are convinced the sputum is being directly coughed out.

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Response by:

Elizabeth D Allen, MD Elizabeth D Allen, MD
Clinical Associate Professor of Pediatrics
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University