As a child grows from infancy through adolescence, it is important to promote good health throughout some of the common problems that occur. These can range from diaper rash in babies, to sore throats and sports injuries in older children.
Certain common childhood illnesses are just a part of growing up, and catching them actually helps to boost your child’s immune system. While most illnesses come and go, there are some that deserve special attention from parents.
A sore throat is usually caused by a virus or a cold. Only about 10% of sore throats are caused by the strep bacteria. Sore throats caused by viruses usually last about 3-4 days and can be accompanied by fever or nasal congestion. It is important to keep your child comfortable by keeping their throat moist with Popsicle, juice, or chicken broth. Both warm or cold liquids can be used for comfort. Tylenol or Motrin can be given to help relieve fever or pain. Call our office for any sore throat lasting more than two days or for any concerns. You should take your child to the emergency room if he/she is drooling excessively, having trouble swallowing or acting very sick.
Ear pain is a symptom that often wakes children during the night. It can be accompanied by fever. You may give your child Tylenol or Motrin to help relieve fever or pain. A warm water bottle can be comforting if held against the painful ear. Be sure that the water bottle is not extremely hot, and make sure your child does not fall asleep with the water bottle left on the skin. This can cause serious burns. It is our policy to see your child the following morning if they are experiencing ear pain. However, in most cases, ear pain may improve after a few hours even without treatment.
Fever can be your friend. Fevers help our body to fight against viral and bacterial infections. However, it is very concerning if fever occurs in newborns or if the child is looking and acting extremely sick. If your child is less than 4 months of age and is experiencing a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, they should be seen. Please call the office for an appointment or go directly to the emergency room if it is after office hours.
If your child is older, you may try to decrease the fever with Tylenol or Motrin. You may also give them a tepid bath, but you should never sponge bath them with rubbing alcohol.
If your child continues to experience fever, other symptoms, or is acting sick, you may call in to speak to a nurse or schedule an appointment.
Coughing is a normal reflex to clear the air passages. Coughing is also an indication of a common cold, a bacterial infection, or a more serious disorder. Usual treatment for cough can include cool air humidification, eliminating smoke exposure, or elevating the head of the bed.
If your child is experiencing a barky cough that resembles the bark of a dog or seal, then he/she most likely has croup. Croup is a viral infection that causes swelling around the vocal cords. Since it is a virus, an antibiotic is not required. You may give your child a warm, steamy shower to help break up any congestion and ease breathing within 15-20 minutes. However, the croupy cough will still exist. You may give as many steamy showers as you need to during the day or night if it helps the symptoms to improve. If steamy showers do not work, you may bundle up your child and take them into the cool, night air. Inhaling the cool, moist air can help to loosen the air passages and allow your child to breathe more easily. A cool mist vaporizer can also be used in the child’s room over night.
Take your child to the emergency room or call 911 if the following should occur:
- Your child seems to be struggling to take in a good breath.
- Your child appears extremely anxious, frightened, or looks blue in the face or around the lips.
- Your child is drooling and cannot swallow.
- Your child cannot speak.
- Your child’s chest sinks in when he/she tries to inhale.
- Your child makes a whistling or crowing sound when inhaling.
Wheezing is a musical sound that is heard when your child inhales or exhales. This sound is caused by an obstruction of the regular flow of air to the lungs. It is important to know that wheezing is not only caused by asthma. If wheezing is heard, call our office for an appointment. You should take your child to the emergency room if he/she is experiencing difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing may be classified as struggling to take a good deep breath, flaring of the nostrils, a pinched-in look of the collarbone or ribs, not being able to speak, sitting up and leaning forward to breathe, grunting with each breath, or sitting quietly attempting to breathe.
If your child is asthmatic and is experiencing severe wheezing, take him/her to the emergency room if there is no improvement 15 minutes after albuterol is administered. If you have any doubts or concerns, take your child to the emergency room to be evaluated.
Any rash should be seen in the office.
Nasal congestion is a common symptom that usually accompanies a cold or flu. If you have a baby too young to blow their nose, you may use a nasal aspirator. If the mucus is thick and sticky, loosen it up by putting 2-3 drops of salt solution (½ tsp. of salt to 1 cup of warm water) into each nostril. Be careful not to aspirate the nose too often. The suctioning can cause sensitive nasal membranes to bleed or swell. This can cause breathing to be more difficult.
Children who are old enough to blow their noses certainly should when it runs. Drinking plenty of clear liquids can help to thin out mucus and help it to run more. Using a cool mist humidifier or placing your child in a warm, steamy bath or shower can help to relieve the congestion.
Call the office to speak to a nurse or make an appointment if the nasal congestion is accompanied by swelling of the face, eyes, forehead, nose or cheeks. If congestion lasts more than 2 weeks or other symptoms occur (headache, facial pain, sore throat, etc), please call our office for an appointment. they should be seen in the office during regular hours.
Diarrhea is the sudden increase in frequency and looseness of bowel movements. The best indicator of severity of diarrhea is its frequency. Diarrhea is usually caused by a viral infection that attacks the lining of the intestines. It usually lasts several days to a week, regardless of the cause or treatment. Mill River Pediatrics does not recommend any medications that stops or slows down diarrhea. The main goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Diarrhea usually causes children to become very thirsty. Your job is to satisfy that thirst and work to prevent dehydration. You should never restrict fluids when your child has diarrhea. You can offer Pedialyte as often as your child will drink it. A rough guide you can use to administer fluids is two teaspoons for every pound that your child weighs every hour. Please avoid drinks that contain high amounts of sugar like juices, Kool-aid, sports drinks, or sodas. Viruses that cause diarrhea feed off of sugar and can make diarrhea and stomach cramping worse. If you are breastfeeding your child, do not stop. Small amounts of solids may also be administered to infants over four months of age. Call the office in the morning if your child continues to have multiple episodes of diarrhea, blood in the stools, or is not improving. If the child is very lethargic, not urinating, and is not drinking any fluids, take him/her to the emergency room immediately.
Many common childhood illnesses can cause vomiting. Most vomiting is caused by viral infections that attack the lining of the stomach or foods that do not sit well in the stomach. Vomiting can also be associated with diarrhea. Vomiting caused by viruses usually subsides within 6-12 hours. There is no medication that is recommended to treat vomiting, but dietary changes usually speeds up recovery. Try to keep your child off all solid foods in the first 24 hours. Clear liquids can help to prevent dehydration and are less likely to stimulate further vomiting. Give nothing by mouth for 2-3 hours after the last episode of vomiting. For infants under one year of age, you may use Pedialyte to help keep them hydrated. For older children, Pedialyte or any other electrolyte solution can also be used. You can start with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of clear fluid every 5 minutes for 4 hours. If no vomiting occurs, you may increase to one ounce every half an hour. Then still if no vomiting occurs, you may double the amount every hour. However, if vomiting occurs, wait one hour and start over again. If your infant is breastfeeding, the key is to provide breast milk in smaller amounts than usual. Nurse your baby about 4-5 minutes every 60 minutes. Return to normal nursing if no vomiting occurs for 8 hours. You can call our office during regular business hours for additional guidelines if your child is less than 2 years of age and has continued vomiting for more than 24 hours or longer than 48 hours in older children. Some medical conditions that cause vomiting require immediate medical attention. You should take your child to the emergency room or call 911 immediately if:
- your child has blood or bile in the vomit. Bile is a green colored material from the intestinal tract.
- your child is also experiencing severe abdominal pain or a swollen, painful abdomen along with the vomiting.
- your child is lethargic, very irritable, or having convulsions.
- your child shows signs of dehydration including dry mouth, absent tears, or decreased urine output over the past 8 hours.
After a minor head injury, young children normally react by crying for a short time and then resume normal activity. A large “goose egg” often develops on the head at the site of the injury. There is no need to worry as long as your child’s behavior is otherwise normal. If your child lost consciousness, vomited more than 2 times, is unusually sleepy, difficult to awaken, or has any other unusual behavior, call 911 or go directly to the emergency room. Otherwise, an ice bag or a frozen bag of corn or peas can be applied to the “goose egg” or area of injury to help minimize swelling and bruising. Tylenol or Motrin may be used to help dull the pain and decrease swelling. Continue to observe your child’s behavior over the next several hours. If your child normally sleeps during this time, awaken him/her once before you go to bed and again in the middle of the night. If any unusual behaviors occur, take your child directly to the ER. You may call in to schedule an appointment the next morning if you feel your child needs to be seen.