Health Topics

Childhood Respiratory Infections

When your child becomes sick for the first time, there’s the possibility of panic and confusion. However, by knowing about certain types of respiratory infections that affect children and how to treat them, you’ll be prepared to get them healthy again in no time.

Respiratory Infections in Children

  • They are very common, particularly in children in daycare or school.
  • Having six respiratory infections per year is normal.
  • Some uncomplicated respiratory infections can last up to two weeks.
  • Many respiratory symptoms overlap and make differentiating the illnesses difficult, especially for parents and teachers.

What Are the Common Symptoms in Uncomplicated Respiratory Illnesses?

Your child might have a respiratory infection if he or she has the following symptoms. As always, consult your doctor when you suspect your child is getting sick.

  • Coughing
  • Fever
  • Hoarseness
  • Red eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes

What Are Some Symptoms That May Cause More Concern?

Symptoms that are more serious in nature can also occur during a respiratory infection. These symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Rapid breathing
  • Stridor — a harsh, raspy vibrating sound heard when breathing in. As it progresses, it can sound like a seal, particularly with coughing
  • Tight breathing
  • Wheezing — a high-pitched whistling sound heard when breathing out

What Is Bronchiolitis?

Bronchiolitis occurs in young children, normally between the ages of 6 months to 2 years, and is characterized most often by wheezing.

  • It is most common around six months of age and does not occur after age two
  • The main symptom is wheezing
  • The most common cause is RSV, a respiratory virus present in the winter months
  • It is spread by direct contact with respiratory secretions
  • The wheezing generally lasts about seven days with 14 days of cough
  • There is no specific treatment, but a vaporizer should be used. Prescription asthma medications may be used if necessary
  • Common complications include ear infections

What Is the Common Cold?

There are at least 200 separate viruses that can cause colds, so, unfortunately, no cure is on the horizon.

  • Colds can occur at any age
  • There is a wide range of cold symptoms, depending on the severity
  • They are spread through direct contact with respiratory secretions
  • They last about seven to 10 days on average, though the cough can last three weeks. Fever shouldn't last more than three days

Treatment is symptomatic only. Nasal suctioning is helpful in infants, and decongestant nasal sprays should be used only for severe cases and only for a few days. Acetaminophen (such as Tylenol®) is only for pain and fever. Also, fluids are always important, even if the child's appetite is poor. Most over-the-counter cold medications aren't very helpful, and remember to never give leftover antibiotics from a prior illness or from another child. Complications of the common cold include ear infections, sinus infections, pneumonia and eye infections.

What Is Croup?

Croup is a disease that is seen mainly in toddlers and is classified by hoarseness with a cough, and symptoms that worsen at night. For more facts about croup, visit the list below:

  • Croup is caused by a virus
  • Children are quite contagious
  • It lasts about five to six days
  • Stridor develops later
  • There is no specific treatment, but the child should be kept calm. Cough medicines are not helpful. However mist, cool or warm, can be quite helpful