Fall is in the air and Thanksgiving is right around the corner, but holiday cheer isn’t the only thing spreading right now.
‘Tis the season for colds and germs.
As runny noses and coughs begin to make their rounds in schools and daycares, Dr. Claire McGhee, a pediatrician with Blue Fish Pediatrics, in association with Children’s Memorial Hermann, shares the top three illnesses parents should be on the lookout for this year.
Croup is caused by a few different viruses, but most commonly results from an infection of parainfluenza (which sounds like flu, although it is not). Children with croup typically develop a “barky seal” cough. This cough is often worse at night. Parents can help comfort their babies with steamy showers, humidifiers and by taking them outdoors in the cold air.
“If your baby is wheezing or having stridor at rest, please see a doctor because we can treat this,” Dr. McGhee said. “Younger children and those with respiratory disease are most at risk for complications.”
The worst of the virus typically passes by the fifth day, but the cough can linger for up to two weeks.
Bronchiolitis is most commonly caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but can be caused by many other viruses. For most children, RSV is simply a bad cold that starts with a cough, runny nose and fever, but the smallest babies can have trouble breathing and eating.
It can linger for a week or two, and in some cases, even longer. Parents can treat their children at home with nasal saline and suction, but Dr. McGhee advises them to keep a close watch on signs of dehydration or any signs that they are having trouble breathing (for example, if a baby’s chest is heaving in and out as if they ran a mile).
Premature babies under age 1 are most at risk and some even need an injection to help prevent bronchiolitis.
Also known as “influenza virus,” this illness causes sudden onset of fever, chills, cough, congestion and body aches. The flu lasts on average about seven to 10 days. Those with asthma, premature infants and children under age 2 are most at risk, but all children can be severely affected. The virus caused 180 pediatric deaths last year.
“As always, the flu vaccine is the best option for protection,” Dr. McGhee said.
It can be tough protecting your kids from viral illnesses, but Dr. McGhee offers several tips for keeping children healthy this season.
“Handwashing will always be at the top of our priority list,” she said. “Be sure to wash hands with soap frequently, especially before eating. That includes snacks! Teach children to cover their cough with their elbows and toss tissues once used.”
Children who aren’t feeling well should be kept at home so they can rest and avoid spreading their illnesses to others.
If your baby does come down with a bug, Dr. McGhee says Motrin and Tylenol can be used to help him or her feel better. But if they are getting worse, having trouble breathing or getting dehydrated, parents should seek medical care.
Blue Fish Pediatrics, in association with Children’s Memorial Hermann, offers a specialized, patient-focused environment for children. For more information and clinic locations, please visit http://bluefishmd.com/.