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Up­per re­s­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions

Pre­dictably, up­per re­s­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions, such as the com­mon cold, are the most preva­lent re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­ease among chil­dren. “Preschool chil­dren have an av­er­age of eight episodes of up­per re­s­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions a year,” shares As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Anne Goh, se­nior con­sul­tant, Re­s­pi­ra­tory Medicine Ser­vice, and head and se­nior con­sul­tant, Al­lergy Ser­vice, at the Depart­ment of Pae­di­atrics at KK Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

Ac­cord­ing to Prof Goh, th­ese vi­ral in­fec­tions are marked by symptoms such as a cough, runny nose and fever. “Th­ese in­fec­tions are self-lim­it­ing and usu­ally re­solve with­out treat­ment, so med­i­ca­tion is aimed at re­liev­ing the symptoms. For in­stance, anti-fever med­i­ca­tion is pre­scribed to ease the fever and any dis­com­fort that the child may have, and an­ti­his­tamines for a runny nose,” she says.

“Un­for­tu­nately, such in­fec­tions are dif­fi­cult to pre­vent, as there are many viruses that can give rise to re­cur­rent in­fec­tions,” notes Prof Goh. “How­ever, the in­fluenza vac­cine may be ad­min­is­tered to pre­vent in­fec­tion from the in­fluenza virus, which can also give rise to th­ese in­fec­tions.” An­other re­s­pi­ra­tory ill­ness com­mon among kids, asthma “af­fects about 20 per cent of chil­dren in Sin­ga­pore”, ac­cord­ing to Prof Goh. Asthma at­tacks, of­ten trig­gered by up­per re­s­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions, are usu­ally characterised by episodes of wheez­ing, cough, short­ness of breath and chest tight­ness.

“Chil­dren with asthma are usu­ally given re­liever in­halers con­tain­ing bron­chodila­tors, which di­late the air­ways and in­crease air­flow to the lungs,” shares Prof Goh. Th­ese pro­vide quick re­lief for their symptoms. “An in­haled steroid in the form of a con­troller in­haler, how­ever, pro­vides long-term con­trol of asthma. This al­lows the child to lead a nor­mal and ac­tive life, and par­tic­i­pate in sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties.” The Re­s­pi­ra­tory Medicine Ser­vice at KK Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal is a key re­fer­ral cen­tre in Sin­ga­pore for breath­ing and sleep-re­lated dis­or­ders for chil­dren and teens up to 16 years old. Some of its ser­vices in­clude the man­age­ment of asthma, re­s­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions and gen­eral sleep and re­s­pi­ra­tory is­sues. For more in­for­ma­tion, call 6225-5554 or visit

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