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Guest blog: How to keep your child healthy this winter.

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It’s very common for children to suffer from lots of illnesses at this time of year. Here’s a run down of the common illnesses your little one might come down and how to best help them recover.

What illnesses should I look out for?

Bronchiolitis

Bronchiolitis is a particular illness to be aware of at this time of year. It’s a viral chest infection, usually affecting children under 2 years of age. Bronchiolitis starts off with symptoms similar to a cold, with blocked nose and cough, difficulty feeding, rapid and laboured breathing and a fever (a fever is a temperature greater than 37.5 C). Most of the time, the symptoms will be mild and resolve by themselves, but the cough can last for several weeks. If you’re worried, always consult your doctor.

Croup

Croup is a viral infection causing swelling of the upper airway of babies and children. Children with croup may have a ‘barking’ cough; breathing difficulty; a hoarse voice; and a rasping noise (called stridor) when breathing in. Usually, symptoms are mild and subside within a few days. Looking after your child at home as with any viral illness, ensuring that they drink plenty of fluids and using pain relief is usually all that is needed. In some cases, medications are needed and it always best to see a doctor if there is a concern regarding how your child is breathing.

Viral wheezing and worsening asthma

While a runny nose and cough are very common symptoms in toddlers and preschool children, in some cases the symptoms may progress to difficult and rapid breathing with wheezing. In younger children, this is usually due to mucus produced in response to a viral infection. In older children known to have asthma, viral infections may trigger a worsening of their asthma. If symptoms are mild, an inhaler prescribed by your doctor may help and the situation can be managed at home. However if there is no response to treatment at home or signs of rapid breathing, this should always be assessed by a doctor. It is always worth checking medications such as inhalers are in date and you have enough supply at home. See the links to useful resources below for advice on what to do in an asthma attack from Asthma UK.

Flu

Flu is an infectious disease that is caused by the influenza virus. Symptoms can range from mild to severe respiratory illness and symptoms include fever, cough and runny nose, headaches, aches and lethargy. Flu vaccines vary each year to protect against the most common, circulating types of the flu virus. The vaccine is updated yearly and requires a yearly update for the most protection. You can book your child in for a flu vaccination with us here.

Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is usually caused by viruses and is also very common at this time of year, Norovirus is a common example of a virus that causes vomiting and diarrhoea. Young children can usually be looked after at home by encouraging small regular sips of fluids. Young babies can easily become dehydrated and should be seen by a doctor especially if they appear drowsy, have a fever, or are not managing to keep fluids down. Green vomit or blood seen in diarrhoea can indicate other more serious underlying causes that need to be checked urgently.

What do I do if my child is unwell?

Children can usually be cared for at home and tend to bounce back quickly but need to be monitored closely. I recommend having a thermometer at home as part of your first aid kit to check for a fever and keeping them comfortable by reducing pain with paracetamol or ibuprofen for children. Keeping up with fluids is also really important as children, especially as younger ones can become dehydrated during illness. If your baby is less than three months and has a fever, they should always be checked by a doctor. Warning signs that your child may need medical attention are:

  • cold hands and feet
  • skin looks mottled (blotchy)
  • lethargy or being unresponsive
  • a rash, especially if their temperature is 37.5° or higher
  • a bulging or sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of the head) in babies
  • blood in the poo or green vomit.

If you are worried about your child at any time, it is always worth consulting your GP or seeing your paediatrician.

As parents and carers, it is just as vital to look after our own health too to be in the best condition to be able to care for our children. So please do take care of yourselves too as this also benefits your children’s health.

Childhealthy was founded by Dr Yiannis Ioannou, a general paediatrician based in London. As a parent and experienced paediatrician Dr Yiannis understands how concerned parents are about their children’s health. Childhealthy provides parents and carers with easy access to high quality private paediatric care, access to multiple specialists and therapists, diagnostic tests, health advice and education, reassurance and treatment.

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