HEALTH CENTER

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Common Illnesses in Children This Season by Magda Austin

Acute and infectious respiratory illnesses in children include tonsillitis, croup syndromes, bronchiolitis AKA RSV, and otitis media. Infants and children are at higher risk for infections and more severe complications due to decrease of maternal antibodies acquired at birth and lack of antibody protection. The airways in children are also shorter and narrower, comparing to adults, and they become more easily obstructed by mucus or inflammation. Therefore it is extremely important for parents to seek medical help as soon as the symptoms are present to prevent permanent disabilities.

Tonsils are highly vascular, lymph-type masses that protect respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts against infection by filtering bacteria and viruses present in the air. However, when infected by certain type of bacteria, like A B-hemolytic Streptococci (ANA strep), tonsils become red and inflamed and they can cause airway obstruction. Tonsillitis peaks between ages 4-7, when children are exposed to different organisms at preschool and their immune system is not mature enough to fight new pathogens. The most common manifestations of tonsillitis are:  severe sore throat covered with patches of yellowish pus, high fever, difficulty swallowing mouth odor, mouth breathing, and snoring. Bacterial tonsillitis is treated with antibiotics like: erythromycin, azithromycin, cephalosporins, or amoxicillin. Make sure to give the antibiotic to your child with food, as it may cause an upset stomach. Antipyretics should be given to control your child’s fever. Liquid acetaminophen- Tylenol or ibuprofen- Advil are the best choices. However, ibuprofen should be given only to the infants older than 6 months, and the duration shouldn’t be more than 3 days.

There are two types of coup syndrome:

  1. Bacterial epiglottitis, caused by Haemophilus influenza, is the swelling up and closing of airways, and it is a medical emergency. This type of croup is less common now due to availability of the Hib vaccination.
  2. Acute laryngotracheobronchitis AKA croup, more common, viral infection caused by RSV, influenza A and B. The most common symptoms are barking cough, hoarse voice, respiratory distress, tachycardia, fever, irritability and agitation. Acute Croup is most common in infants and toddlers and is treated with steroids to facilitate bronchodilation and decrease edema of the airways. Humidifier should be used to provide vaporized air.

Bronchiolitis AKA RSV is a very common reason for hospitalization of infants in winter months. It is caused by RSV virus which primarily attacks the bronchi and bronchioles and results in accumulation of mucus and airway obstruction. The manifested symptoms are: tachypnea, difficulty breathing, retractions, nasal flaring, wheezing, and hacking, dry cough. Severe cases may require mechanical ventilation.

Otitis media is an inflammation of the middle ear. The pathogens have an easy access to the middle ear through the short and open Eustachian tube, therefore this infection is more common in younger children ages 6 months-6 years old. The main risk factors are: pacifier use, cigarette smoke, bottle feeding, and exposure to new organisms at preschool. Breastfeeding decreases risk for infection as the baby improves its immunity through mother’s milk. The symptoms are: acute onset of pain, fever, purulent drainage, red bulging tympanic membrane. Antibiotics and pain control should be the main parenting concern. If not promptly treated it may result in eardrum rupture or even hearing deficit.

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.