Tis the Season for Respiratory Infection in Kids
Though there are so many fun and exciting things to look forward to during the winter months, for babies and high-risk children it can be a season full of illness. Respiratory infections are very common during cold weather as they are passed easily from person to person via mucus contact or droplets in the air. Most respiratory infections – characterized by coughing, wheezing, fever, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and sneezing – are caused by viruses or bacteria. Curious about the different respiratory infections out there? Here is a list and description of some of the more common types:
10 common respiratory infections in babies
- Bronchiolitis – This illness is caused by an infection- usually RSV – and is characterized by a worsening, wheezing cough. Bronchiolitis occurs when small airways leading to the lungs, called bronchioles, inflame and fill with mucus. This makes it difficult for small children to breathe, especially babies who are premature or who have chronic health conditions. Often, babies with bronchiolitis become dehydrated, so it’s important to offer plenty of fluids and rest.
- Croup – Characterized by a barking cough and raspy voice, croup is a viral infection which causes upper airways to swell.
- Diphtheria – Diphtheria is a serious bacterial infection resulting in a severe sore throat. The bacteria produce a toxin which coats the throat and nasal linings and can spread through the bloodstream to the heart, kidneys, or other organs. Without treatment, diphtheria has a high mortality rate of 40-50%. It is very contagious, but when treatment is obtained immediately, most patients recover. In the U.S. and Europe, diphtheria is almost unheard of due to decades of vaccinations.
- Pneumonia – There are many different types of pneumonia, a general term for lung infection, which can be caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, or parasites. The symptoms usually begin like a common cold in the throat and/or nose, and then descend into the lungs.
- Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) – This virus is a very common form of respiratory illness due to its highly contagious nature. RSV infects the lungs and breathing passageways and can lead to other serious illnesses.
- Strep Throat – Caused by streptococcus bacteria, strep throat is an infection that leads to fever, sore throat, swollen tonsils, and painful neck glands. It is common among children and very contagious.
- Whooping Cough (pertussis) – This infection is caused by bacteria and causes long coughing spells which often make children turn red or purple. After the coughing spell, the “whoop” sound can be heard when the baby or child inhales. Vaccinations are available for whooping cough.
- Upper Respiratory Infection (Common Cold) – The cold, caused by rhinovirus, is the top reason kids visit the doctor each year. Colds are characterized by runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, sore throat, cough, mild fever, and headache.
- Roseola – Roseola most often infects babies from 6 months of age to two years and is characterized by very high fever, mild upper respiratory infection, and rash as the fever breaks.
- Influenza – The “flu” is a contagious viral infection that spreads easily. In addition to the usual symptoms of a common cold, the flu includes fever, weakness, nausea, dizziness, aching, chills, diarrhea, and ear pain that can last five days to two weeks.
General treatment of respiratory infections
Because most respiratory infections are caused by viruses, antibiotics – which only help with bacterial infections – are not used for treatment. With a virus, only the symptoms can be treated and not the virus itself, which is why it’s so important that your little one gets plenty of rest and fluids. To lower a high fever, check with your baby’s doctor about administering acetaminophen. For small babies, the use of a bulb syringe can help keep noses clear of mucus.
Even though feeling ill can be a real downer during the holidays, giving your child the time to heal and improve can make all the difference in his health and demeanor. Washing hands frequently and avoiding crowds can help avoid any illness in the first place.
How do you help your child get through a cold? Share your advice in the comments!