7 things you should know about... snif­fles, colds and flu

Just when a bout of cold or flu clears up, your baby is down with an­other virus. EVELINE GAN finds out why doc­tors say this is nor­mal.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - THE BABY YEARS -

1 It’s nor­mal for ba­bies to get a runny nose, fever or cough ev­ery other month.

Healthy ba­bies, tod­dlers and preschool­ers catch a bout of cold or u about six to eight times a year on av­er­age, says Dr Michael Wong, deputy med­i­cal di­rec­tor of Rafes Med­i­cal.

Some stud­ies even show that ba­bies un­der the age of two may fall sick up to 12 times a year – which is about once a month – adds Dr Natalie Ep­ton, a spe­cial­ist pae­di­a­tri­cian and neona­tol­o­gist at SBCC Baby & Child Clinic at Mount El­iz­a­beth Novena Spe­cial­ist Cen­tre.

This is nor­mal and does not mean that your child has a poor im­mune sys­tem or is sickly, Dr Wong says.

Con­trary to what Grandma thinks, colds are not brought on by ex­po­sure to cold air, so don’t over-swad­dle Baby if the weather is ne. This can make her body tem­per­a­ture rise when she is not sick.

“In other coun­tries, u sea­sons tend to co­in­cide with cold weather, but the truth is, they are not re­lated. Nei­ther are colds caused by be­ing ex­posed to cool air, hav­ing wet hair or wear­ing wet clothes,” Dr Wong adds.

The real rea­son is due to ba­bies’ im­ma­ture im­mune sys­tem, which makes them fall sick more eas­ily, Dr Wong ex­plains.

But there are many other fac­tors, too, such as be­ing ex­posed to germs from an in­fant-care cen­tre or un­well sib­lings who end up spread­ing the virus to the lit­tle one.

2 Most colds and flu clear up on their own in a week or t wo.

Both colds and u are res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions that can make life mis­er­able for your baby.

But the u tends to hit harder than a com­mon cold as symp­toms are usu­ally more in­tense. Your baby may ex­pe­ri­ence symp­toms like fever, lethargy or feed poorly, Dr Wong says. She may also de­velop a runny and/or stuffy nose, sore throat and cough, Dr Ep­ton adds.

Al­though these symp­toms can be wor­ry­ing, take heart; viruses that cause colds and u typ­i­cally clear up on their own in about a week to 10 days, and are not usu­ally con­sid­ered dan­ger­ous for most kids, Dr Ep­ton says.

But see a doc­tor when you no­tice any of these red ags, which may sig­nal some­thing more se­ri­ous: fever in a baby two months old or younger. fever of 38.9 deg C or higher at any age. ear pain. breath­ing difcul­ties. your child looks pale or blue. ex­ces­sive crank­i­ness or sleepi­ness. signs of an in­fec­tion that isn’t go­ing away, such as a fever last­ing more than three days, thick and dark-coloured phlegm as well as a wors­en­ing cough. your child seems to be get­ting worse, is lethar­gic and be­comes in­creas­ingly ir­ri­ta­ble. poor feed­ing with signs of de­hy­dra­tion (look out for dry lips and mouth, sunken eyes, re­duced tears, urine and ac­tiv­ity).

3 An­tibi­otics won’t speed up re­cov­ery.

Both the com­mon cold and u are caused by viruses, which means an­tibi­otics can’t help and won’t speed up the re­cov­ery process. They work only on bac­te­rial in­fec­tions.

“An­tibi­otics are not ef­fec­tive in treat­ing colds or u. They may only be nec­es­sary if the cold be­comes com­pli­cated by a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion like an ear in­fec­tion or pneu­mo­nia,” Dr Wong says.

He cau­tions against giv­ing your child any left­over or un­used an­tibi­otics as it may lead to an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance and other side ef­fects like an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion.

Con­sider a u jab to pro­tect your baby, as the u tends to make your lit­tle one more mis­er­able than the com­mon cold. In some cases, it may also lead to dan­ger­ous in­fec­tions like pneu­mo­nia.

Ac­cord­ing to the Health Pro­mo­tion Board, a u jab is rec­om­mended for kids from the age of six months to ve years old. This is avail­able at poly­clin­ics and most pri­vate clin­ics.

Breast­feed­ing also pro­tects against these viruses; the an­ti­bod­ies in breast milk help boost Baby’s im­mune sys­tem and ward off in­fec­tions, Dr Wong says.

4 Ski p OTC med­i­ca­tion; give her plenty of flu­ids and let her rest.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Wong, a specic treat­ment is usu­ally not nec­es­sary in most cases of colds and u. What your sick baby re­ally needs is plenty of rest. That means shelv­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that may over-stim­u­late her, as well as en­cour­ag­ing ear­lier bed­times and more naps.

Get her to take more uids to help loosen phlegm and soothe the throat, as well as re­place wa­ter lost from the body dur­ing fever, Dr Wong says. For ba­bies un­der the age of six months, “uids” mean breast milk or for­mula.

It is not safe to play doc­tor by of­fer­ing your baby over-the-counter (OTC) med­i­ca­tion like an­ti­his­tamines, de­con­ges­tants and cough syrup sold on the shelves of phar­ma­cies.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics (AAP) says OTC cough and cold medicines aren’t ef­fec­tive in chil­dren un­der six years old and can have dan­ger­ous side ef­fects.

No med­i­ca­tion will make your baby’s ill­ness go away faster, but if she has a fever, in­fant parac­eta­mol can help to re­lieve dis­com­fort. Par­ents may give ba­bies older than three months parac­eta­mol, or ibupro­fen to those older than six months, Dr Wong says. Check with your doc­tor about the cor­rect dosage.

Ba­bies un­der the age of three months who are run­ning a tem­per­a­ture usu­ally re­quire a hos­pi­tal stay.

5 De­con­gest your baby’s nose with a nasal spray.

Ba­bies and tod­dlers have nar­rower air­ways than older kids and adults, which make it harder for them to clear se­cre­tions like mu­cus dur­ing a cold.

To ease your lit­tle one’s stuffy nose, a salt­wa­ter nasal spray is usu­ally the only thing you will need, Dr Ep­ton ad­vises.

Use this with a nasal de­con­ges­tant drops, which can help con­strict blood ves­sels in the nose and re­duce mu­cous pro­duc­tion, if her blocked nose is se­vere and af­fects her feed­ing.

Some stud­ies show that smear­ing some in­fant-friendly vapour rub on the chest of ba­bies older than three months may help ease symp­toms, Dr Ep­ton says.

Do this only if she is older than three months. Be sure to use vapour rubs for­mu­lated for ba­bies, and not the adult ver­sion, which may be too strong and can cause a burn­ing sen­sa­tion on the skin.

6 Switch off the air­con­di­tion­ing for now.

Avoid plac­ing your child di­rectly in front of the fan or strong air-con­di­tion­ing as this may worsen the nasal con­ges­tion, says Dr Wong. Do­ing so may dry up and fur­ther ir­ri­tate the in­side lin­ing of the nose.

Dr Wong sug­gests hu­mid­i­fy­ing the air to ease a stuffy or runny nose. But use only cool-mist hu­midiers when moist­en­ing the air in the nurs­ery. It should be placed close to the crib or bassinet, but not within her reach.

The AAP does not rec­om­mend us­ing warm-mist hu­midiers and hot-wa­ter va­por­is­ers as they can cause ac­ci­den­tal burns or scald­ing.

7 Flu-proof your kid: start by wash­ing your hands.

You can’t bub­ble-wrap your lit­tle one, but you can pre­vent the spread of germs by work­ing on your hy­giene habits.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Wong, both the cold and u viruses are spread by tiny air droplets, which are re­leased when an in­fected per­son coughs or sneezes.

They can also be spread in­di­rectly; for in­stance, when you touch your baby’s nose and mouth with hands that have come into con­tact with con­tam­i­nated sur­faces.

So if you are feel­ing un­well, put on a mask, or cover your mouth and nose with a tis­sue when you cough or sneeze. Bin the tis­sue, and wash your hands thor­oughly af­ter­wards – a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive act that can pre­vent ill­ness.

When your child is old enough, you can also teach her how and when to wash her hands prop­erly.

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