This medical moment is brought to you by all the runny nosed, coughing kids who have been around lately. If you’ve been watching the news, you know that this year has been quite the year for influenza (the flu) and RSV. So here is a quick run-down of the two and what you can do to help your child feel better.
RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) is part of a larger group of viruses that cause bronchiolitis. Bronchiolitis rears its ugly head through low grade fevers, harsh coughs, sore throats, watery eyes, and yucky noses. Bronchiolitis affects the smaller airways deep within the lungs (aka, it fills them up with mucous and junk), therefore it tends to have a greater effect on small children (under 2) who have smaller airways. In infants and small children, RSV can result in difficulty breathing and eating and, quite frankly, can scare the living poop out of the parents. So, what to do:
1. Keep your child hydrated. This can be especially tricky in infants since its difficult to nurse or bottle feed when he/she can’t breathe. The key is small, frequent feedings. If they can only tolerate a few minutes of eating, then give them a break, but try again in 15 minutes. As parents of small children know, when a kid gets sick their whole schedule goes out the window. So don’t fret about eating/sleeping schedules. You can resume them once your little one is feeling better.
2. Suction. Use a bulb syringe or any other kind of boogey sucker to try to keep your baby as clear as possible. If you feel like you aren’t able to stay on top of all that snot, call your pediatrician. There are actual suction clinics at many offices that allow you to bring your child in to be deep suctioned by the nurse.
3. If you feel that your child is not staying hydrated and/or you can’t seem to keep them clear of all that mucous, then call your doctor. RSV is a virus, therefore antibiotics will not help your little one feel better, but the doctor can check your child out to make sure he/she is faring well and can provide you with options for his/her care. It is not uncommon for infants to require hospitalization through the worst of RSV. Your doctor, with your help, can make that call.
4. Prevention. Adults and older children can get RSV, but it presents more as the common cold. So in order to keep your little ones safe, WASH YOUR HANDS! (I am a bit a freak about this. We use hand sanitizer at least 4-5 times during one shopping trip. That is after I thoroughly wipe down my cart. OCD? Maybe, but I don’t care.) Research shows that washing your hands is the number one way of reducing the spread of disease. Also, cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow and dispose of used tissues.
Influenza (the Flu) causes mainly respiratory symptoms and fever. That is, it causes cough, congestion, body aches, fever and sore throat. These symptoms usually occur pretty close together (unlike a regular cold where you start with a tickle in your throat and go from there). Although the congestion in your lungs (that can end up in your tummy) can cause stomachaches and nausea, influenza is not the same as the “stomach flu”. I have to laugh when people are confused why they got the stomach flu after they made sure to get their flu shot that year. The flu shot is for influenza, not the stomach flu. There is no vaccine for the pukeys. I wish there were.
I had influenza once. It was the January after I got married and we were visiting New Orleans for a research conference. It. was. miserable. I remember just wanting to lie down in the gutter and die. My body ached, I was coughing up things that I didn’t know could exist within the human body, I had a fever, my throat hurt, and I finally understood how it was that people actually still died from this sort of illness. It was bad. So, again, what to do:
1. Get your flu shot. Get your kids the flu shot. Get your dog the flu shot (not really), but seriously, a good offense is the best defense.
2. Visit your doctor. Again, influenza is a virus, so antibiotics are not helpful. There is, however, an anti-viral medication that can lessen the symptoms. For best results, however, this has to be started within the first 48 hours.
3. Rest and hydrate. Influenza usually lasts 7-10 days from start to finish. So hunker down and do your best to rest.
Hopefully your family’s winter illnesses won’t be more than the common cold. If that is the case, here are a few helpful tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics to help your family feel better:
Buckwheat honey was found to ease nighttime coughing and sleeplessness in children ages 2 and older, according to a 2008 study.
Honey can be fed safely to children over age 1, according to the AAP Nutrition Handbook. The AAP does not recommend giving honey to infants under 12 months of age because it could contain a bacterium that causes infant botulism.
The AAP advises starting with ½ to 1 teaspoon as needed. If honey is not available, corn syrup may be used.
Saline solution offers a way to keep the tiniest noses clear. Babies can benefit from nasal washes prior to nursing or bottle feeding. Make saline solution by combining ½ teaspoon of table salt per 1 cup of warm tap water. Put two to three drops in the nostril and use a bulb syringe to suction it out.
Older children also can gargle saline solution to ease sore throats.
For children older than age 2, topical vapor rubs can help ease chest and nose congestion. A 2010 study found that vapor rub containing camphor, menthol and eucalyptus oils relieves symptoms and aids sleep in children with colds.
Rubs never should be given by mouth or rubbed under the nose. Follow instructions on the label and rub on the chest.
If all else fails
Consult your pediatrician if your child’s symptoms last longer than a week, he or she has a mild fever for more than two to three days (call the pediatrician right away if your infant under 2 months has a fever), your child has severe ear pain that does not go away or has a sore throat accompanied by fever and swollen neck.
Here’s to a healthy last few months of winter!
Hello! I am Camille, a wife, mother of four, Disney obsessed, certified teacher, and reality optimist. Motherhood comes with its ups and downs, and I hope while you’re here you’ll find something that makes your #momlife easier!