Seasonal sickness in children
In a hot and humid country like India, winter is the most awaited season of the year. As temperatures and humidity levels go down, the risk of cold-related illnesses steadily rises. Diseases ranging from common cold, flu, pneumonia, sinusitis, bronchitis, etc. become more and more common at this time of the year.
In this season special care should be given to the health of the children, as they are the most susceptible to these ailments. Children sometimes find it difficult to explain their problems clearly. They need to be taught basic precautionary measures in order to stay safe in this season.
They need to be educated on the importance of avoiding exposure to cold, washing hands frequently, drinking water often, washing and sanitising hands after playing with animals, washing hands before eating, touching nose and eyes, etc. These basic measures are small steps of self-care that children can adopt.
Common Cold: Common cold is caused by different types of viruses. Since cold is a viral infection, there is no curative treatment. Oral fluids and rest in addition to decongestants like cold and cough syrups (in consultation with your paediatrician) may provide relief.
Flu: Children can also be exposed to flu virus. The child may have symptoms like running nose, fever, sore throat, cough, body ache, etc. The fever may last for few days. Generally, it can be managed at home. However, parents should be aware of serious symptoms which warrant immediate consultation with paediatrician and hospitalization. The best way to avoid this illness in your children is to make sure they get an annual flu vaccine as per advice from your paediatrician.
Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a respiratory infection in which the lungs get filled with fluid and pus. It can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated in time. It is caused by bacteria as well as viruses. The presenting symptoms may vary but the child may have cold, high fever, cough, wheeze and difficulty in breathing. If your child has had a cold for several days and suddenly develops a high fever coupled with a worsening cough, this could be a possible sign of pneumonia. Pneumonia needs to be treated with antibiotics under the care of your paediatrician.
Sinusitis: This is another ailment children face in winters. It is a condition resulting from the inflammation of the para-nasal sinuses which drain in the nose. The child may have symptoms like cold, fever, cough, thick yellow discharge from the nose, headache and bad breath. It is advisable to consult a paediatrician who will decide whether to treat it with antibiotics or not.
Bronchitis: One of the more common illnesses faced by children during winter is bronchitis. This is a condition commonly caused by viral infection that affects the respiratory tree. Children usually develop signs and symptoms of a common cold with sneezing, running nose, mild cough and sometimes a mild fever. It is usually self-limiting but it is advisable to consult your paediatrician.
In a child already having bronchial asthma, exposure to cold or respiratory infections can trigger an asthma attack. Ensure that the child takes the anti-asthma medication regularly.
Some useful tips are given below :-
- Avoid exposure to cold
- Adequate winter wear
- Avoid drinking chilled water, cold drinks, etc.
- No smoking in home
- Adequate fluid intake as it loosens mucus and respiratory secretions
- Cover the mouth while sneezing or coughing
- Washing hands frequently especially before eating, touching nose or eye
- Ensure child eats adequate, wholesome and nutritious food
- Immunization as per paediatrician advice
- Do not give cold or cough medications unless you consult your doctor
- Be aware of dangerous symptoms that warrant paediatrician consultation or hospitalization
Dr. Santosh Datar, is a Medical Director and consultant doctor at Ziqitza Healthcare limited. He is trained in Occupational Health, Hospital Administration and Medico legal issues. He comes with an experience of 31 years and has a flair for designing systems and procedures and making continual improvements in the organizations he works for. Dr. Datar has an M.B.B.S degree along with a Diploma in Anesthesiology and Industrial Medicine. In the past he has worked with companies like Larsen & Toubro Limited, The Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, Johnson & Johnson among other reputed companies. He is also a part of national safety council as an auditor and trainer and a member of Life Supporters Institute of Health Sciences, Mumbai. He has also been the former president Indian Association of Occupational Health, Mumbai Branch and is a recipient of Best Resource Person award from Indian Association of Occupational Health.