WIN­TER ILLS & CHILLS

Fol­low our guide to re­duc­ing how of­ten coughs and colds show up at your house

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Family Health -

Snif­fles, sneezes and runny noses are a fact of life for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter. And while most win­ter bugs can be seen off with rest and cud­dles, oth­ers can be more dif­fi­cult to deal with, es­pe­cially if sec­ondary in­fec­tions or com­pli­ca­tions arise.

M&B’s guide to win­ter health has all the in­for­ma­tion you need to keep your fam­ily fight­ing fit, so read on…

WHAT’S TO BLAME?

Viruses are the main cul­prit when it comes to win­ter ill­nesses. Usu­ally your lit­tle one will need lots of TLC, flu­ids and rest, but steer clear of an­tibi­otics as they only work against bac­te­ria, not viruses. Young chil­dren can be given in­fant parac­eta­mol or ibupro­fen to relieve symp­toms and fever, but if the ill­ness is more se­ri­ous or your child is not re­cov­er­ing quickly, see your GP for fur­ther ad­vice.

Chil­dren are es­pe­cially sus­cep­ti­ble to the viruses that cause coughs and colds be­cause their im­mune sys­tems are still de­vel­op­ing. To help strengthen their im­mune sys­tem and fight off in­fec­tion, en­sure they eat a bal­anced diet in­clud­ing iron-rich foods such as lean red meat, legumes and green veg­eta­bles. An im­mune-boost­ing mul­ti­vi­ta­min (look for one with vi­ta­min A, vi­ta­min C and zinc) that has been de­vel­oped specif­i­cally for young chil­dren can also be ben­e­fi­cial.

CATCH­ING THE SNIF­FLES

Coughs, colds and sore throats oc­cur more fre­quently in the cooler months, as more time is spent in en­closed spa­ces. These ail­ments are caused by in­hal­ing droplets from an­other per­son’s cough or by com­ing into con­tact with the virus on a sur­face.

To pre­vent the spread of in­fec­tion, teach your child to cough into her sleeve or a tis­sue, rather than her hand, and en­cour­age fre­quent hand-wash­ing, es­pe­cially be­fore eat­ing.

COMMON COM­PLAINTS COLDS

If your baby looks mis­er­able or sounds ‘wet’, it’s likely she has a cold. Mu­cus run­ning down the back of her throat will make her cough, and her breath­ing may be noisy be­cause of a blocked nose.

Noisy breath­ing and a blocked nose can of­ten per­sist for six to eight weeks af­ter the cold has gone. See your doc­tor if your baby loses in­ter­est in food, de­vel­ops a per­sis­tent fever (see the sec­tion on ear in­fec­tions over the page), be­comes limp, has dif­fi­culty breath­ing or has blue lips.

From the age of one month, you can give her a dose of in­fant parac­eta­mol to help al­le­vi­ate the dis­com­fort if she has trou­ble breath­ing, eat­ing or sleep­ing. How­ever, check with your doc­tor be­fore giv­ing her any other med­i­ca­tions.

COUGHS

When cough­ing is as­so­ci­ated with wheez­ing, a high fever, breath­less­ness or sleep­less nights, see your doc­tor. Al­ways seek med­i­cal ad­vice be­fore giv­ing a cough sup­pres­sant to a baby or young child.

CROUP

More common in tod­dlers than ba­bies, croup is caused by a vi­ral in­fec­tion in the up­per re­s­pi­ra­tory tract. Her cough will sound like a seal bark ac­com­pa­nied by a crow­ing noise as she breathes in be­cause croup causes a nar­row­ing of the wind­pipe. If your baby has dif­fi­culty breath­ing, go to your doc­tor or the emer­gency depart­ment of your lo­cal hos­pi­tal.

EAR IN­FEC­TIONS

The middle ear is the usual site of ear prob­lems in older ba­bies and tod­dlers, as their Eus­tachian tube, which con­nects the middle ear to the throat, is nar­row and gets blocked eas­ily.

Vi­ral in­fec­tions can cause the throat’s lin­ing to swell, block­ing the tube and pre­vent­ing drainage from the middle ear. This, in turn, causes a sec­ondary in­fec­tion be­hind the eardrum. In­fected mu­cus can lead to a painful acute ear in­fec­tion, which may change your baby’s be­hav­iour. She may have scream­ing

With­out a rea­son­able amount of sleep, we’re more sus­cep­ti­ble to a va­ri­ety of ill­nesses. Ba­bies and tod­dlers need 12 hours of sleep at night.

at­tacks, be un­set­tled or de­velop a sleep prob­lem. If these oc­cur, see your GP to have your baby’s ears checked. Pain re­lief may be given to your child, but an­tibi­otics aren’t al­ways nec­es­sary.

Glue ear – a more chronic col­lec­tion of mu­cus in the middle ear – is an­other cause of in­fec­tion. It can lead to ear­aches, es­pe­cially at night, which means dis­rupted sleep pat­terns. Treat­ment ranges from ob­ser­va­tion to the in­ser­tion of plas­tic tubes, de­pend­ing on the fre­quency, dis­com­fort and ex­tent of hear­ing loss.

SNOTTY SEA­SON

Young chil­dren come down with about six to 12 colds per year. A blocked nose is one of the most vis­i­ble signs, but ba­bies and tod­dlers are un­able to blow their own noses, lead­ing to con­ges­tion. A saline nasal spray helps re­move ex­cess mu­cus or you can use a va­por­iser in your child’s room.

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