January 3, 2011


HOHENWALD, Tenn. — Winter months often find physician offices and emergency departments filled with children affected by respiratory illnesses. Lewis Health Center (LHC) offers suggestions on identifying and managing these illnesses. 

“Children are susceptible to a number of different respiratory infections, particularly in the winter,” said Dr. Jawaid Kamal, a physician at LHC.  “Knowing the signs and symptoms can help parents determine the best course of action.”

Some of the most common respiratory conditions in children include:

● Cold – While the typical American adult has two to four colds every year, a child may have as many as 10. Young children attending school or day care and college students living in dorms are at greatest risk for a cold. Many different viruses can cause a cold, including rhinovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). 

● Flu – Although the symptoms can be similar, flu comes on more suddenly and lasts longer than a cold. The major difference is fever–usually 102 degrees and higher for the flu. Other symptoms include headache, chills, dry cough, body aches and fatigue. Young children may also experience nausea and vomiting. Flu vaccine, available as a shot or a nasal spray, remains the best way to prevent and control influenza.

● Bronchitis – Acute bronchitis, more commonly known as a chest cold, usually follows a cold or flu infection – first with a dry cough and later with a productive one – and may linger for several weeks.

“If your child does contract a cold or other respiratory infection, certain steps can help to speed up the recovery,” said Dr. Kamal. “A cool-mist humidifier may help to relieve stuffy noses. Make certain your child drinks plenty of fluids and gets enough rest.”

Seek a physician’s advice if your child seems to be getting worse, has a high fever, a bad headache, increased difficulty breathing, shows signs of dehydration or has a sore throat or ear pain.

One of the best ways to help children stay healthy is to wash hands frequently and thoroughly. Ask children to sing the song “Happy Birthday” twice during hand washing to ensure that adequate time is taken. Limit exposure to infected people, eat a well-balanced diet and get adequate rest.