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Does Your Kid Keep Clearing His Throat? When to Worry

Continuous clearing of the throat is common among school-going children, and it affects both genders. It may happen as a sign of underlying illness or even when a child is as healthy as a horse. So, most often, children may cough even when there is nothing serious on the throat. However, it may be a symptom of a health problem that is yet to show in given situations.

Therefore, it is essential to take time as a parent to understand what is happening with your child. Find out if it is just a habit or some severe underlying health issue requiring medical attention.

To Worry or Not To

As stated earlier, throat clearing does not necessarily mean that a child has any underlying medical condition. Sometimes, it happens to be a subconscious or conscious habit that children develop. It is usually an unwanted, irregular, and involuntary habit, hence the name habit cough. Medics call it a tic cough, psychogenic cough, or somatic cough syndrome. 

Throat clearing is usually harsh and nonproductive. However, as much as it may seem harsh and disruptive, it should not be a cause for alarm. In most cases, it does not pose any danger to the child. Throat clearing always happens when the child is awake. During sleep or when there is a distraction, it automatically disappears.

It is a condition that can go on for several weeks or months. However, where the case is extreme, the situation can even last for years. It is worth noting that throat clearing is a habit that is likely to result in viral illness. So, if your child is exhibiting this condition, it is advisable to see a pediatrician. Thorough evaluation and diagnosis may be necessary so that the doctor can determine whether or not there is an underlying medical condition that may require admission.

A Habit or A Disease: How to Differentiate?

As a parent, when your child starts exhibiting repeated throat clearing, you can’t help but begin to worry.  You start imaging all sorts of things. However, note that some children exhibit this condition depending on their environment at that particular time. For instance, when your kid is in a particular environment, throat clearing worsens, and once they move to a new setting, the problem disappears.

According to studies, a throat-clearing condition is common among primary and early high school children. The condition is associated with psychological stressors coming from the school environment. Studies show that when children face problems at school, they tend to develop habit coughs.  When this happens, it leads to absenteeism, a situation that reinforces the habit further.

So, if you want to know if throat clearing is a habit or a health condition, you should closely observe your kid. If you notice that the condition happens in a specific environment and not in others, your child may have a habit cough and not a health condition. Throat clearing in children happens many times just in one minute. It mostly happens when they are around their parents, teachers, and or health providers.

It is common to mistake a habit cough for a pathologic cough. According to specialists, clearing the throat in children signifies an underlying condition if other symptoms are present. When your child shows other symptoms such as sore throat, hoarseness, throat irritation, and or wheezing, it could be a health condition. You, therefore, need to see a pediatrician determine what your child could be suffering from.

Throat Clearing Causes

There are various causes of throat-clearing in children. As a parent, you need to be aware of them so that you can be in a position to help your kid where possible. They include the following:

One cause of habit cough or throat clearing, as commonly known, is stress and anxiety. According to studies, school is one environment that seems to be contributing to this condition. Children experience emotional problems at school, something that makes them experience anxiety. One way of them showing it is by clearing their throats more often.

Another cause of throat clearing is an underlying health condition such as asthma, bronchiolitis, atopic dermatitis, allergies, among other respiratory diseases. These health conditions cause throat irritation, leading to the continuous clearing of throats among children. However, these health conditions are usually accompanied by additional symptoms, as highlighted earlier.

Throat Clearing Diagnosis

The best way to diagnose throat clearing is by visiting a doctor or a psychologist. The two are in a better position to confirm the root cause of your child’s continuous throat clearing. A psychologist may observe the behavior of your child to determine if it is a behavior. If the counselor can confirm that it is a habit, then counseling and behavior therapy can follow.  

If the cough is persistent, a pediatrician will perform the following to establish the cause of throat-clearing:

  • Physical examination
  • Lung function tests 
  • Chest X-ray
  • Blood tests

How To Deal With Throat Clearing 

Since throat clearing can be a habit or a health problem, let’s see how we can deal with the condition.

  • Habit cough treatment

There are various ways of dealing with throat clearing in children. If it is a habit cough, it means that your child needs psychological support. Therefore, reassurance, counseling, hypnosis, and distraction therapy may come in handy. Therapy will help your child learn how to suppress the condition gradually until the urge to cough disappears.  

As a parent, you can offer positive reinforcement to your child to help discourage that habit. It can be through positive comments or praise every time they try not to cough. 

  • Chronic/Pathologic cough treatment

If your kid is experiencing a cough accompanied by other symptoms and is persistent, it signifies an underlying health condition. It means that it may be necessary to seek medical attention.

The doctor will carry out a thorough diagnosis to determine the underlying cause of throat clearing and give your child appropriate treatment.


Throat clearing is a habit that every parent is likely to notice in their kids. Whether the cough is due to habit or health condition, there each one of the conditions has treatment in place to help your child. All that is required is a proper diagnosis to offer the correct treatment.

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