When to Take Your Child to the Urgent or Emergency Room for Cough or Sore Throat

May 01, 2023

Coughs and sore throats are two of the most common complaints for which people seek medical attention. These conditions can be caused by various conditions, from allergies to infections. Knowing the causes and symptoms of coughs and sore throats can help you make better-informed decisions about your health. Some of the causes of coughs and sore throat include:

  • Cold and Flu
  • Allergies
  • Viral infection. The viruses are the main cause of sore throat because they can infect the throat directly and cause pain and discomfort. Usually, the viral infection is caused by the common cold, but other viral infections can also cause it.
  • Bronchitis. Bronchitis is a common condition that affects the lungs and airways and is caused by inflammation of the bronchi, the large airways that connect your windpipe to your lungs. Bronchitis can be acute or chronic. Visit an emergency room to determine the best treatment for you if you are experiencing any bronchitis symptoms.

When to Visit the ER?

During cough and sore throat aren’t life-threatening, you should call your pediatrician if you notice the following symptoms:

  • Severe Coughing

A sore throat is a symptom that usually comes with a cold, often caused by viruses like the common cold and flu. Less commonly, bacterial infections such as group A streptococcus can cause sore throats.

When a child has a sore throat, they may be tired, have a runny nose, and cough. If the cough is severe or does not improve, your child should go to a freestanding ER near you. This is because it could be croup, a serious respiratory condition that needs immediate medical attention.

  • Wheezing

Swollen airways can cause a wheezing sound when breathing out. This can happen with asthma or bronchiolitis, a lung infection usually affecting infants and young children.

Asthma and COPD are the most common causes of wheezing, but other disorders can also cause it. These include the cold or flu, allergic reactions, pneumonia, and a physical object blocking your airways, such as a tumor or something you accidentally inhaled. The cause of this type of problem can be difficult to determine, but you should seek urgent treatment if you have coughing and choking symptoms and wheezing.

  • Difficulty Breathing

If your child has difficulty breathing or a severe sore throat, seek emergency care. Breathing problems can be caused by anything from a minor cold to serious lung disease. Other conditions that can cause breathing difficulty include heart failure and asthma. People with these conditions usually feel short of breath even when not doing anything.

  • Fever

In young children, fever is often a sign of a virus or bacteria infection. If rest, fluids, and medicine do not help lower your child’s fever, you should go to the ER. This is also a warning sign if your child has a sore throat. Call the ER if your child has trouble breathing or signs of severe throat pain, such as swelling. A high fever may cause confusion, extreme sleepiness, irritability, and seizures. Your doctor will do a chest x-ray, blood test, or urine test to find the underlying cause of your child’s fever.

  • Loss of Appetite

It is common for children to lose their appetite when they have a cough. This is because the cough can irritate the stomach and cause nausea. The act of coughing can also lead to a loss of appetite.

Your child’s doctor may do a few tests to see if strep is present. Those include a rapid strep test, which takes up to 30 minutes to get the results, and a throat culture, a small swab of tissue from your child’s throat.

For many people, a loss of appetite is a temporary symptom that resolves itself. Others, however, might lose their appetite over a longer period, such as part of an eating disorder or chronic illness like cancer.

Schedule an Appointment

Visit Express ERs if your child has severe coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath.