Parental Winter Wonders
Winter stands tall in reminding us of the lists of health conditions we could fall prey to, if we’re not cautious enough. The all-time low, though, is when little children are subjected to these diseases.
Children most often find it difficult to explain their problems clearly. The solution is to understand what winter diseases your children are most likely to be prone to. Watch out for – viral respiratory infections, sore throat (pharyngitis), ear infections and viral gastroenteritis. Here are some of the common winter worries we hear from concerned parents, with resolutions you can make for them.
What should be done should my child have a respiratory infection?
The usual cold simply has to be allowed to run its normal course. A cool mist humidifies and helps retrieve stuffy nose. Older children may gargle with salt water.
- Limit exposure to others: Cover the mouth with tissue while coughing and sneezing and throw the used tissue in trash immediately.
- Fluids can help loosen mucus and make the child feel better. Give plenty of fluids and juices to the child. Avoid caffeinated products, as they cause dehydration.
- Paracetamol is the preferred medication for fever.
- Keep child warm and covered up, to protect from the chill.
- Antihistaminics help stop runny nose.
- Consult your pediatrician.
What should I do if my child has asthma? Should I take any special precautions?
Besides the usual precautions as described earlier, children with asthma should continue to take their medicines, if they are on regular medication. They should avoid exposure to the chill, smoke and dust. Some children may need to start some medicines during the early season change. Those children, who have increase in their symptoms, should contact their doctor immediately.
Are antibiotics required in all case of respiratory infections?
No, antibiotics are useful only against bacterial infections. While antibiotics may be useful in select cases, most respiratory infections in children are viral in nature, hence do not require them. Let your pediatrician decide the need and type of antibiotic to be used.
What if my child complains of ear pain?
It is not unusual for a child who has a cold to subsequently develop ear pain. A smaller child may also tug at his/her ear or be out-of-sorts. Sucking and swallowing can also hurt. Most of such infections only require symptomatic treatment with painkillers. It is important to get the child examined by a pediatrician, who would then decide on the need for antibiotics.
When to see a doctor?
Certain symptoms in children warrant urgent medical consult. These are persistently high fevers, cough that disturbs sleep, abnormal behaviour such as unusual drowsiness, refusal to eat, crying a lot, holding ears and stomach and wheezing. It is important to remember that while seasonal illness can be stressful for parents, most of these are mild and resolve spontaneously. Parents and children should make the best of their time together, even in sickness. This can be used as opportunities to be together, and do various activities like reading, listening to music etc. Love and attention are powerful medicines. Sick days well spent can result in lasting memories for both children and parents.
What if my child has a respiratory infection and develops diarrhea subsequently?
Many virus which cause upper respiratory tract infections in children may also result in loose stools in a few days after onset of respiratory symptoms. Most such cases can be managed by giving WHO-ORS solution to prevent dehydration. It’s important to continue feeding the child during diarrhea. Zinc supplements should be started and continued for two weeks after relief of symptoms. Consult your pediatrician if diarrhea persists for more than seven days.