Update from Dr Yiannis – How do I keep my child healthy this winter?
I hope this latest update finds you and your loved ones well.
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How do I keep my child healthy this winter?
What illnesses should I look out for?
What do I do if my child is unwell?
Common remedies for winter colds, what works?
First Aid courses are underway. Find out more here or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The clocks have turned back and we’re officially into the winter season. This year, there is an added layer of worry for parents alongside the usual winter concerns about colds and Flu with the COVID-19 outbreak still going strong and another lockdown starting this week.
Thankfully, medical appointments are exempt from the new lockdown rules, and our clinics continue as usual. Don’t forget that home visits, video and telephone consultations are all available as alternatives and are safe and suitable in many situations.
Keeping up to date with your child’s health checks and all the relevant immunisations, remain just as important now as these offer protection for a wide range of illnesses and shouldn’t be forgotten amongst any concerns relating to COVID-19.
Fortunately, news remains positive for COVID 19 and children, as reviewed in my last update, most children have very mild or even no symptoms and there continue to be very few cases affecting children.
However, it’s very common for children to suffer from other illnesses at this time of year.
For example, children have much higher rates of the flu in comparison to COVID-19. It’s a good idea to make sure your child is up to date with all their vaccinations and book them in for a Flu vaccination now too.
Here’s what to watch out for in children of all ages this winter.
What illnesses should I look out for?
Bronchiolitis is a particular illness to be aware of at this time of year. It’s a viral chest infection, usually affecting children under 2 years of age. Bronchiolitis starts off with symptoms similar to a cold, with blocked nose and cough, difficulty feeding, rapid and laboured breathing and a fever (a fever is a temperature greater than 37.5 C). Most of the time, the symptoms will be mild and resolve by themselves, but the cough can last for several weeks. If you’re worried, always consult your doctor.
Croup is a viral infection causing swelling of the upper airway of babies and children. Children with croup may have a ‘barking’ cough; breathing difficulty; a hoarse voice; and a rasping noise (called stridor) when breathing in. Usually symptoms are mild and subside within a few days. Looking after your child at home as with any viral illness, ensuring that they drink plenty of fluids and using pain relief is usually all that is needed. In some cases medications are needed and it always best to see a doctor if there is a concern regarding how your child is breathing.
Viral wheezing and worsening asthma. While a runny nose and cough are very common symptoms in toddlers and preschool children, in some cases the symptoms may progress to difficult and rapid breathing with wheezing. In younger children, this is usually due to mucus produced in response to a viral infection. In older children known to have asthma, viral infections may trigger a worsening of their asthma. If symptoms are mild, an inhaler prescribed by your doctor may help and the situation can be managed at home. However if there is no response to treatment at home or signs of rapid breathing, this should always be assessed by a doctor. It is always worth checking medications such as inhalers are in date and you have enough supply at home. See the links to useful resources below for advice on what to do in an asthma attack from Asthma UK.
Flu is an infectious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms can range from mild to severe respiratory illness and symptoms include fever, cough and runny nose, headaches, aches and lethargy. Flu vaccines vary each year to protect against the most common, circulating types of flu virus. The vaccine is updated yearly and requires a yearly update for most protection. You can book your child in for a flu vaccination with us here.
Gastroenteritis is usually caused by viruses and is also very common at this time of year, Norovirus is a common example of a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Young children can usually be looked after at home by encouraging small regular sips of fluids. Young babies can easily become dehydrated and should be seen by a doctor especially if they appear drowsy, have a fever, or are not managing to keep fluids down. Green vomit or blood seen in diarrhoea can indicate other more serious underlying causes that need to be checked urgently.
What do I do if my child is unwell?
Children can usually be cared for at home and tend to bounce back quickly, but need to be monitored closely. I recommend having a thermometer at home as part of your first aid kit to check for a fever, and keeping them comfortable by reducing pain with paracetamol or ibuprofen for children. Keeping up with fluids is also really important as children, especially younger ones can become dehydrated during illness. If your baby is less than three months and has a fever they should always be checked by a doctor. Warning signs that your child may need medical attention are:
- cold hands and feet
- skin looks mottled (blotchy)
- lethargy or being unresponsive
- a rash, especially if their temperature is 37.5° or higher
- a bulging or sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of the head) in babies
- blood in the poo or green vomit.
The flow chart produced by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health to advise parents who are concerned their child is unwell during the pandemic remains a valuable resource. Please see the link at the end of this article in Useful Resources.
If you are worried about your child at any time, it is always worth consulting your GP or seeing your paediatrician.
Common remedies for winter colds.
Scientists have been studying cold viruses since long before I had my very first snotty nose! But there’s still no cure for the common cold. A runny nose, sore throat and temperature can make anyone feel pretty rotten and may lead to your child needing time off school to get better.
Although there is nothing that can prevent a common cold, many different remedies exist and every family has their favourites! A spoonful of honey (only for over 1 year olds) taken before sleep has been shown to help to relieve coughing in children. Other ‘remedies’ such as taking high dose vitamin C, antibiotics, antihistamines, humidifiers and even eating garlic have little or no medical evidence to support their use for clearing up cold symptoms caused by viruses. The majority of these remedies are harmless and so are fine to try (antibiotics should be reserved for suspected bacterial infections and not used for viral infections), but there is little medical evidence to support their use. Fortunately, viral illnesses such as colds are self-limiting and usually resolve simply with rest, pain relief, hydration, and lots of tissues!
As parents and carers, it is just as vital to look after our own health too to be in the best condition to be able to care for our children.
Please do take care of yourselves too as this also benefits your children’s health!
First Aid courses are underway.
Finally, our First Aid Courses for Parents are up and running and we’re receiving really great feedback from the sessions. It is great to see the numbers of you that have signed up and there are still a few places available to book for November here or email email@example.com
‘I found it so helpful thank you. Very clear and well explained. I feel reassured that I have some knowledge now in case anything arises.’
– Natalie, parent of 6 month old, attended class October 2020
Learning how to deal with emergency situations effectively and efficiently can give you the added knowledge and confidence that can really make a difference.
Wishing you all the very best,