Your Baby & Toddler - - The Dossier -

WHAT ARE COUGHS AND COLDS? Com­mon colds are caused by viruses and are of­ten called URIS (up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions) be­cause they in­fect the nose, ears, and throat but not the lungs (which are part of the lower res­pi­ra­tory tract). Ac­cord­ing to pae­di­a­tri­cian Dr Lara Smith, “The com­mon cold is the most com­mon up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion that tod­dlers get – es­pe­cially those who have re­cently started playschool. They are gen­er­ally vi­ral, but they can lead to sec­ondary in­fec­tions that are usu­ally bac­te­rial and may re­quire an­tibi­otics.”

Re­mem­ber, though, that this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that your tod­dler’s runof-the-mill com­mon cold is go­ing to be com­pli­cated by a sec­ondary in­fec­tion, for ex­am­ple, bron­chi­oli­tis (where the lungs are in­volved), ton­sil­li­tis, si­nusi­tis, or an ear in­fec­tion.

“Of­ten, it’s just a runny nose, a low­grade tem­per­a­ture and a mis­er­able tod­dler for a few days. Only if your child doesn’t cope with the cold may it de­velop into a full-blown in­fec­tion,” Dr Smith says.

Give your tod­dler lots of flu­ids, try to get her to rest lots, give her parac­eta­mol to bring down the fever and per­haps some­thing to dry up her nose, but keep an eye on her. “A runny nose and cough could per­sist for up to a week, but if your child is un­well, not feed­ing well or has a high fever that per­sists for more than 48 to 72 hours, I would ad­vise that she sees a doc­tor,” says Dr Smith. WHY IS MY TOD­DLER SICK ALL THE TIME? The av­er­age child can get up to eight colds per year in her first two years. After that, it should go down to four to six episodes per year. Of course, if your child starts playschool be­fore she’s two, her risk will be much higher as ex­po­sure to new germs and the crowds in crèches (and big fam­i­lies) all make a tod­dler more sus­cep­ti­ble to the com­mon cold,” says Dr Smith.

She adds, how­ever, that it’s not all doom and gloom and that your child isn’t go­ing to be sick her whole school career, un­less she has an im­mune de­fi­ciency.

“Those first few months are gen­er­ally the rough­est be­cause she wouldn’t have been ex­posed to a huge amount of germs be­fore that,” she ex­plains, adding that the rea­son why your tod­dler catches so many colds in her early years, and in par­tic­u­lar when she starts playschool, is be­cause of her im­ma­ture im­mune sys­tem. Once this de­vel­ops, it gen­uinely im­proves, and if your tod­dler was breast­fed as a baby she “should have a rel­a­tively good im­mune sys­tem,” Dr Smith says.

Also, re­mem­ber that a child who suf­fers from al­ler­gies such as rhini­tis or asthma will nat­u­rally be more sus­cep­ti­ble to catching the com­mon cold. SO WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT IT? Apart from keep­ing your child at home in a vac­uum, there’s noth­ing re­ally that you can do to pro­tect her from catching colds that can po­ten­tially lead to more se­ri­ous ill­nesses.

“If you can, keep chil­dren un­der two out of big crèches,” ad­vises Dr Smith. “As far as your two-year-old is con­cerned, you’re just go­ing to have to bite the bul­let to get through the tricky first few months and years at playschool.” One thing you can do to help is make sure that she’s eat­ing prop­erly – not al­ways easy with a twoyear-old! Putting her on a sup­ple­ment if she’s a fussy eater can some­times help as tod­dlers tend to eat one item more reg­u­larly than any oth­ers, and don’t al­ways have a bal­anced diet.

“There are also adult stud­ies show­ing that zinc can po­ten­tially ben­e­fit one’s im­mune sys­tem. If your child is get­ting sick all the time, then this might be some­thing to con­sider – al­though it hasn’t been proven. The same goes for giv­ing your tod­dler probiotics,” says Dr Smith.

She stresses that smok­ing around your tod­dler is detri­men­tal to her health and it makes com­mon cold symp­toms worse. The best thing you can do for your child is quit your habit if you have one. YB

EVEN IF YOUR child has never had a cough or a cold (lucky you!), when she starts playschool – gen­er­ally at around about the age of two – she will most likely get sick of­ten. Be­cause un­for­tu­nately, along with all the pros of your lit­tle one start­ing school (so­cial­i­sa­tion and stim­u­la­tion be­ing two of these), come cons, and the up­per res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tion is one of these.

Sea­sonal res­pi­ra­tory tract in­fec­tions are kind of un­avoid­able if your child is ex­posed to oth­ers, but you can limit the dam­age, says Molly Barnes

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