WINTER ILLS & CHILLS
Follow our guide to reducing how often coughs and colds show up at your house
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.