Winter Illnesses

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Anders Wenngren

Bronchitis
More than 25% of those affected by acute bronchitis each year are children; it's most common in kids under 5. The illness, an inflammation of the airways, is usually caused by viruses, bacteria, or allergies. Symptoms include difficulty breathing and a severe cough that may last several weeks. Your child may also develop a slight fever that in severe cases will spike to above 102°. Treatment for bronchitis is rest and fluids, though antibiotics can help if the infection is bacterial. Medication for older children can suppress a dry cough, but if the cough produces phlegm, talk to your pediatrician about giving a syrup with an expectorant to make it easier for your child to bring up the sputum. Check with your doctor to see if you can give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce fever and aches, and be sure to use a cool-mist humidifiers or steam vaporizers to help ease breathing. Make an appointment to see your pediatrician so he can make an accurate diagnosis, which can be done only by listening to your child's bronchial tubes.

Sinusitis
About 10% of the colds children get each year develop into sinusitis, an inflammation of the lining of the sinuses that's usually caused by allergies or another infection. Symptoms include nasal congestion and thick nasal discharge, as well as pain, tenderness, swelling, and pressure around the nose. Sinusitis can cause a persistent cough, sore throat, or bad breath. If the infection spreads, it can lead to fever and chills. Treatment is usually a 21-day course of antibiotics. Over-the-counter decongestant nasal sprays can be used for up to three days (but check with your pediatrician before administering); after that, they can cause the nasal passages to swell and might actually worsen symptoms. Call your pediatrician to see if an over-the-counter antihistamine, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen are safe for your child. You can safely use a cool-mist humidifiers and steam vaporizers to help make breathing easier, too. See your pediatrician as soon as you suspect sinusitis so she can prescribe antibiotics.

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Copyright © 2004. Reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of Child magazine.

Updated November 2009

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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