Posts Tagged ‘common cold’

Croup, the barking cough

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

croup1A common childhood illness, croup often starts with mild cold-like symptoms. As the airway swells, the child develops noisy breathing and a cough that sounds like the barking of a seal. Often a child’s symptoms get worse or come on suddenly at night and they can be scary. The symptoms tend to repeat over the next two to three nights, which can be exhausting for everyone.

Croup is an illness that affects the voice box (larynx) and windpipe (trachea). Children between 3 months and 3 years of age are most likely to get croup. Their airways are small, and any swelling can make it difficult to breathe. The good news is that most cases of croup, though they need to be monitored closely, are mild and last less than a week.

Croup is caused by viruses that are contagious. The viruses can spread through the air or by touching a contaminated surface, something toddlers do all day long. Less frequently, allergies may cause croup. Your baby can get croup at any time of year, but it is most common between October and March, so it’s time to keep your eyes and ears open for it.

If your little one gets sick, do not give over-the-counter cough and cold products to her if she is younger than 2 years of age. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, these medications can have serious and even life-threating side effects.

Steam often helps children with mild cases of croup to breathe easier. I remember those nights when I steamed up the bathroom with hot shower water and sat there with my son or daughter for 15 to 20 minutes. It did seem to help, but if this doesn’t help you, try taking your child outside to breathe cool night air. The cool air helps reduce airway swelling. A cool-water humidifier (vaporizer) in your baby’s room also may help. While your baby has the croup, check on her frequently during the night to make sure the symptoms don’t get worse.

Antibiotics won’t help croup, but call your baby’s health care provider right away if your child develops a barking cough or noisy breathing. Providers sometimes prescribe medications called corticosteroids that reduce swelling in the airways and make breathing easier. Rarely, a child with serious breathing problems may need to be treated with oxygen and medications in the hospital.

Call for emergency medical assistance if your baby:
• Appears to be struggling to get a breath
• Looks blue around the mouth
• Drools and has a lot of trouble swallowing
• Makes louder and louder noises as she inhales (called stridor), especially when resting.

When to use antibiotics

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

antibioticsThere was a time when parents who had a child with a sore throat or flu symptoms would ask their child’s health care provider for an antibiotic to help her feel better and get well and some providers would prescribe it.  But we’ve learned over the years that antibiotics, which are wonderful in some situations, are not the be all and end all and if given too often they may cause more harm than good.

First of all, antibiotics treat only bacterial infections. They do nothing to fight viruses which are the cause of most common colds, cough and flu. Secondly, if antibiotics are used when they are not needed or appropriate, bacteria over time can become resistant to them and then the bacterial infections they are designed to treat will no longer be curable by these medications. Thirdly, when an antibiotic is properly prescribed but the complete course of the drug is not given to the patient (your toddler feels better after six days so the complete ten day course is not followed), resistance can occur.

The American Academy of Pediatrics wants parents to remember three important points regarding antibiotics:
1 – Do not ask your pediatrician for a prescription for antibiotics to treat your child’s colds and flu. This does not mean that you should not take your child to the doctor to be examined. Your doc will be able to tell you if it’s a viral or bacterial infection and whether or not she needs an antibiotic.
2 – When your pediatrician does prescribe an antibiotic for an infection, make sure your child takes it exactly as the doc tells you. Be sure that she takes all of it.
3 – Do not give your child antibiotics from a previous illness or one that has been prescribed for another family member.

Having the use of antibiotics at the right time can be a real blessing, even a life saver. Using them at the wrong time will do no good and may cause problems in the future.