When my daughter Isabella got her first runny nose at 3 months, my instinct as a mother was to freak out despite being a doctor. We tend to be overprotective and worry more than is necessary when it comes to our kids. So I asked myself the four questions I usually ask my patients: Is my child eating normally? Is she still playing? Does she have a fever?
What’s her respiratory rate?
The answers instantly calmed my anxiety. Isabella’s runny nose didn’t dampen her enthusiasm for playing or eating. Her temperature was normal. Her breath rate fell within normal limits. Salt water worked wonderfully to rinse out her nose; she even seemed to like the flavor. Breastfeeding alone was enough to clear away all the mucus, and she was able to breathe easier after meal times.
When she developed a cough after a week, I decided it was time to take her to see a colleague. Many times parents automatically assume antibiotics are warranted, and often doctors give in even if they aren’t convinced they are necessary. This doctor pointed out the same four things I’d determined earlier: Isabella didn’t have a fever, she was playing, she was eating normally, and she was breathing easily. In other words, she didn’t need antibiotics.
According to National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK, parents should take their child to see the doctor for any upper respiratory infection. The doctor will usually ask questions, perform a physical checkup, and establish your child’s medical history. The physician may diagnose your child with one of the following most common conditions: an acute ear inflammation, a sore throat, or a common cold.
Make sure your child gets plenty of rest, drinks lots of water, eats abundant fruits and vegetables, and has their nose rinsed out with salt water whenever necessary. Avoid abrupt changes in temperature, because this may weaken the immune system. Closely observe your child for several days to ensure their condition is improving and no complications are present. If that’s the case, no antibiotics are necessary.
A cough is a common symptom and can last up to three weeks; it’s your lungs’ way of protecting themselves from upper airway secretions and clearing them out. Avoid over-the-counter cough suppressants and cold medicines for children, especially if they are younger than 6. They’re unlikely to help while also reducing the body’s natural airway-clearing reflexes.
This article originally appeared on p21 in the December 2014 issue of beijingkids. To view it online for free, click here. To find out how you can obtain your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Hubert K (flickr)