If you are a first time parent, that first illness your child experiences is momentous. Their every breath rattles the mucus in their nose and the back of their throat and your anxiety builds as you listen to them sleep through the monitor–whether you can hear their breathing or if you can’t. Is it the flu? Is it pneumonia? You hope to get some reassurance by speaking to the Advice Nurse, but now you have your ear pressed up against your child’s chest trying to figure out if you can hear a wheeze, and what does a wheeze sound like anyway? What is a faster than normal breathing rate? And what is increased work of breathing; doesn’t their belly always move with each breath?
Fast forward to next winter, you can’t remember the last time you weren’t keeping a cloth or facial tissue in your pocket to wipe your Little’s nose. You’ve perfected the humidifier, finding just the right setting and placement to let the machine run all night without creating a wet spot in your kid’s bedroom. The changing table now has an illness station so that you never have to go far to check a temperature, treat a cough with honey, or soothe a sore nose with Vaseline. You keep waiting for your child to get better, but as soon as it seems like you’re seeing improvement, a fever shows up, or an earache, or vomiting, or just more snot. If your child gets symptoms of asthma with illness like mine, the cold season and it’s many illnesses brings an extra level of heightened awareness that can be tiring and you may be left wondering “is this normal?”
Barton Schmitt, MD says to expect 7-8 colds per year for babies through preschool years and 5-6 colds for school aged children. We get a lot of calls this time of year, trying to help sort out when children might be dealing with more than a cold virus or need help fighting that virus. We give advice about the best ways to help children keep that mucus flowing out so it doesn’t lead to ear infections, sinus infections, or pneumonia. This article is a very succinct and read-able overview for colds and home care advice, just keep in mind that instead of calling in to Colorado for advice, you can call us. (503-255-3544)
Colds are very hard to prevent from spreading to others and over the years, we get exposed to so many strains, we get better at fighting them. Infants are more at risk from the common cold and while hand washing helps, your best bet at preventing illness is staying away from places of exposure as much possible. (Yes, I hear you guffawing at this impossible task. This is why our kids are sick all the time.)
The flu, on the other hand, is a higher risk illness than the common cold. Influenza makes kids (and adults) very ill and for children with even minor medical vulnerabilities, it can be really dangerous. This article provides an overview on how influenza spreads and when people are most contagious. Unfortunately, people are contagious 24 hours before the start of symptoms and kids are actually contagious longer than adults. The best way to prevent influenza and reduce the threat it poses to our community is vaccination! Babies as young as 6 months old can receive the vaccine, and if your child has only ever received one influenza vaccination, get them the booster shot to provide their immune system that much more virus-fighting know-how.
My overly pragmatic self won’t wish you a “Stay Well,” but hopefully you feel a little more confident the next time you hear a sniffle.
Photo credit: VeryWell Health