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Coughing is a physiological reflex that expels particles and excess mucus from airways. In order to cough effectively one needs to generate sufficient airflow from the lungs which in turn depends on the elasticity of the chest wall, the ability of the airway to conduct airflow, and muscle strength.
Managing cough successfully in children needing palliative care could involve improving weak cough mechanisms, managing the cause of persistent irritation of the airway or suppressing an irritating and unhelpful cough.
It will therefore be important to consider any potential underlying cause before taking measures to stop the coughing.
Causes of cough
The Oxford Textbook for Children’s Palliative Care in Africa lists the following causes of cough in children and management suggestions, while also making the point that cough is a common symptom in AIDS, reported by 19 – 34% of patients in surveys of symptom prevalence in HIV disease.