December 11, 2015

Cold and Flu Season

The sneezing, fever, aches, coughing, and runny nose can make even the toughest among us miserable.  Being sick can be worse than the polar vortex, and can hit you without warning.  Cold and flu season is in full swing this time of year.  A few viral illnesses like flu and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) can be identified on a test but for most patients, it’s just a common cold.

Know what to expect

Most kids will average 6 colds per year.  For younger kids in daycare expect even more episodes.  As children get older and build stronger immune systems, the frequency of colds decreases.  If you are worried your child has the flu, get them tested immediately as medications only help shorten the illness if started within 48 hours of symptom onset.

A study recently published by the British Medical Journal looked at the duration of cold symptoms in kids.  They found that coughing lasted at least 10 days in half of the patients and had resolved by day 25 in 90%.  This means that most kids coughed at least 10 days, and 1 in 10 children were still coughing 4 weeks after their cold started.  Nasal symptoms had resolved in 50% of children by day 10 and in 90% of children by day 15.  The long and short of it is that most colds will last at least 10-14 days.

Is there anything that works to treat viral illnesses?

The best treatment for any viral illness is rest, fluids, and Tylenol (kids 2 months and older) or Motrin (kids 6 months and older).  Do not give cough and cold medicines to kids under the age of 2.  There is no evidence that these medicines help young children.  There is, however, plenty of evidence that these medicines can harm young children.  Adverse reactions seen with cold medications include allergic reactions, increased or uneven heart rate, slow and shallow breathing, confusion or hallucinations, drowsiness or sleeplessness, convulsions, nausea, and constipation.

When to call the doctor

  • Any problems breathing or wheezing
  • Worsening sore throat
  • Coughing which produces green or gray sputum or lasts more than 10 days.
  • Fever lasting several days or over 101F or Fever >100.4 in any newborn less than 8 weeks of age.
  • If the child has shaking chills, chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Difficulty swallowing, poor intake of fluids.
  • Pain in the ear, unusual lethargy, enlarged, tender glands in the neck
  • Any other concerns you are worried about

When to go to the hospital or call 911

  • Respiratory distress – this includes any prolonged breathing problem such as working hard to breathe, wheezing, or breathing too fast, blue lips, skin or fingernails
  • Dehydration – look for a dry mouth, decreased urination or only a few wet diapers, and no tears when infants cry.
  • Lethargy or any change in mental status

How to stay healthy this cold and flu season

There are plenty of ways that you can decrease your risk of getting sick this year.  Wash, wash, and wash your hands again.  Hand hygiene very important in preventing the spread of viral illnesses.  Try to separate the sick individual from the rest of the family.  If you are an adult in contact with a young child in daycare don’t be surprised if your little one shares some germs and gets you sick too.  Avoid going to places such as the emergency room if you are not the one that is sick.  If you do go to the doctor’s office ask if there are separate waiting rooms for sick and well patients.  Last, but not least get your flu shot.

If you have concerns or questions as always please contact your physician or visit our Urgent Care Clinics. We’ve made it easier to schedule your visit with extended hours and convenient online check-in.

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