Respiratory Infections

When a child begins showing cold symptoms parents hope for the best and that the cold will go away after a few days. Hopefully most cold symptoms are very short lived, but in some situations they are not, especially as the season of high allergy counts approaches. While your child may suffer from allergies or a common cold, he or she may be suffering from the onset of a more severe, but common respiratory infection. The common cold is the most prevalent type of respiratory infection in children and also the leading cause for children to visit the pediatrician’s office. Dr. Amy Garcia, MD, of ABCD Pediatrics in New Braunfels, states that she sees “respiratory infections multiple times a day.”

Respiratory infections are generally caused by a virus, not a bacterial infection, and are often diagnosed as respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). RSV is defined as a common virus that usually affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Dr. Garcia says other common viral respiratory infections include “rhinovirus, human metapneumovirus, parainfluenza, and influenza viruses.”

What are the symptoms of respiratory infections?
Most symptoms last anywhere from 7 to 21 days. According to Dr. Garcia “respiratory infections are usually worse in the first 3 – 5 days, but slowly improve over 2 – 3 weeks.” It may be difficult to think of your child having infection symptoms for multiple weeks at a time, but the virus will run its course. In less severe cases RSV can cause the following:
  • Common cold symptoms (runny nose, cough)
  • Ear infections
  • Eye irritation and redness (conjunctivitis)
  • Croup (cough and sore, scratchy throat)
According to Relay Clinical Patient Education, “severe cases of infection with RSV in children under 2 years of age can cause a condition known as bronchiolitis,” this means the small airways of the lungs are infected. Symptoms of bronchiolitis include:
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Wheezing
  • Difficult or Rapid Breathing
What are the treatments for respiratory infections?
Because respiratory infections are viral, not bacterial, antibiotics will not help treat them. Using a bulb syringe to suction out mucus from your child’s nose will help him or her breathe more easily. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggest using a cool-mist humidifier to keep the air moist and make it easier for your child to breathe. Dr. Garcia advises “cough medications are not indicated for children under age 6. But children over age 1 can use a teaspoon of honey as a cough suppressant.”


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