Most parents know that kids are excellent incubators and tend to catch and share their illnesses, especially with each other. Respiratory infections are very common, and can be difficult to differentiate because of similar or overlapping symptoms. Some symptoms can even be quite scary – like a high fever. Here are some tips to help you know when a cold is just a cold, and when you need to seek treatment.
Common Symptoms of an Uncomplicated Respiratory Illness:
- Runny nose
- Red eyes
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Sometimes symptoms can last up to 2 weeks, and kids can have them often.
Croup, Pneumonia, or Bronchitis?
Croup is a common viral infection that can accompany a cold and usually lasts 5-6 days. Symptoms include hoarseness and a distinctive “barky” cough that sounds like a seal, and often worsens in the evening. There is no specific treatment, and cough medicine is usually ineffective, but humid air (both cold and warm) and steroids can be helpful in alleviating symptoms. Your nearest Neighbors location can help, if needed.
Pneumonia is a lung infection that is most commonly viral, but can be bacterial in about 20% of cases. Symptoms include a fever, a phlegmy cough, shortness of breath, and often labored breathing. Treatment can vary based on severity. For a viral infection, treatment may be to alleviate symptoms. If caused by a bacterial infection, treatment may require antibiotics.
Bronchitis is an inflammation of the bronchial tubes located in the lungs, often caused by a viral infection that can have initial symptoms similar to other respiratory infections – runny nose, cough, chest congestion, fever, chills, muscle aches. A cough continuing for up to 3-4 weeks can often be the indicating factor. Treatment can vary based on severity. For a viral infection, treatment may be to alleviate symptoms. If caused by a bacterial infection, treatment may require antibiotics.
Because these infections are most often viral, antibiotics are not usually prescribed for treatment. Most often, the best treatment is rest, plenty of fluids, and treatment of symptoms for comfort.
Symptoms for Which You Should Seek Emergency Medical Care:
- Fast or labored breathing
- Frequent or prolonged coughing, especially if it induces vomiting
- Change in behavior – lethargic, not playing (at least periodically), unable to speak without having to catch breath
- Wheezing or Stridor (a raspy, vibrating sound while breathing)
- High or prolonged fever that does not respond to medication
- Becoming agitated or confused
- Blue-ish discoloration of the skin
As always, the best treatment is good prevention. Teach your kids proper handwashing technique, to cover coughs and sneezes, and to keep from touching their noses, eyes, and mouths. Do your best to avoid sick people, and keep your kids home when they are sick.