Cold and Flu Season, Keeping Your Little Ones Safe

Well it’s here, along with the cold and snow comes the upper respiratory illness. This time of year can be especially more dangerous for those little babes at home. We have experienced this first hand in our house, as well as in our extended family. As a nurse I’ve worked with kids for nearly 10 years in an environment where I watched kids breathing patterns as part of a routine assessment. Multiple kids, multiple times, 8 hours a day 5 days a week. I would like to share a bit of the knowledge I have learned through my experiences with you all. So other parents can catch some of those signs your little one may be struggling with that respiratory bug, before it turns into a nasty ER visit. A nurse’s motto is “prevention, prevention, prevention”.

Common colds and coughs typically include intermittent coughing, runny nose, and fevers. Your child may appear more tired, but should be rousable and able to play on and off.

Signs that your child needs medical attention for their cold or cough:

  • Cold or cough symptoms not improving after a few days, or getting worse rather than better.
  • High fever, persistent fevers.
  • Not drinking, not able to drink.
  • Not making wet diapers.
  • Inability to keep fluids down.
  • Lethargy. Child is more than tired. Unable to stay awake.

Infants have small airways leaving them at higher risk for respiratory issues when ill. They can develop a condition called bronchiolitis when infected with a respiratory tract infection. Especially with RSV, and influenza infections. Bronchiolitis is a type of inflammation of the lungs. Bronchiolitis can make an upper respiratory tract infection much more serious. This inflammation constricts the airways making it hard for little one to breath.

Signs of more serious respiratory problems:

  • Fast breathing.
  • Noisy breathing. Wheezes, squeaks, grunts.
  • Belly breathing. Kids do breathe from their bellies, but often when struggling with breathing, belly breathing can be more pronounced.
  • Retractions. This is when you can see your child’s rib cage with each breath. With more mild retractions you may see a couple of ribs. The more ribs you see, the more the child is working to breath.
  • Persistent coughing. Coughing that does not stop. Coughing with little to no breaks. Inability to stop coughing.
  • Skin is pale, dusky, or bluish.
  • Lethargy. Child is more than tired, unable to stay awake.

Tips to keep your child safe:

  • Pay attention to what your child looks like when they are healthy. How do they normally breath, what color are their lips, or their nail beds, what color is under their eyes. This way you can tell if your child seems pale, dusky, or lips are bluish.
  • Keep your pediatrician’s phone number in plain site, and in your phone.
  • Don’t be afraid to call the pediatrician. Most doctors offices have trained nurses that will go over your child’s symptoms with you in detail. They can help you decide if a visit is needed.
  • When it’s after hours, don’t be afraid to call your local Emergency Room. Again, an ER has trained staff that can help you decide if a visit is needed.
  • Trust your own gut. If you don’t like the way your child looks, bring her in. No question. You know your child best. Prevention is the best way to keep your little one safe.
  • If you feel like your child is struggling with breathing, seems pale or bluish, seems very lethargic, call 911.

This information I have shared are based off of my experiences as a nurse and a mom. The information is meant to be “good to know”. I purposely didn’t include technical criteria as I feel everyone should get further information from their pediatrician. This is not meant to replace medical advice from your physician.

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