This is one of the most common issues in kids of preschool age. Almost all toddlers would have had at least one episode of common cold (runny nose) and cough before they turn 2. It is commonly caused by viruses and mostly seen in winter months or during weather changes. These viral infections are self limiting illness, where the child will get better by two weeks from onset of symptoms.It is usual to have fever when kids develop these respiratory tract infections.
Some children especially preschool children can develop wheezing following viral upper respiratory tract infections. These can repeat with further infections. Most of these preschool wheezers out grow their symptoms by the time they reach 6-8 years of age. Some of them may require inhaler therapy during episodes. Few children with allergic symptoms may develop asthma as they get older. There is advancement of inhaler therapy over the last few years both for children and adults. There is misconception that inhalers are ‘addictive’. It is best way to give the medicine directly into the lungs as it is breathed in to where it is needed and it reduces the chance of side effect from oral medicines given for wheezing. These medications when given by mouth as syrup or tablets can cause undesired side effects compared to inhalers.
Cough is a worrying symptom for most parents. Cough is a natural, protective reflex we have to expel the irritant,phlegm in the breathing tubes and lungs. Cough lasting for more than 3 weeks needs attention especially if it sounds moist. Cough medications may reduce the cough and makes the secretions thicker making it harder to cough up. Some cough medicines available in the market can lead to serious side effects and some are not licensed to be used in children.
When do we worry about child’s respiratory symptoms?
- Cough in newborn baby and unvaccinated babies in the first 4 months of age.
- Child has persistent cough for more than 3 weeks which sounds moist.
- Sudden onset of cough following choking and breathing difficulties.
- Child has breathing difficulty like breathing faster, working hard to breath.
- Coughing up greenish sputum or blood.
Do not self medicate children as their symptoms may vary with episodes. Always consult your child’s doctor before giving medicine to your child, even if medicines are prescribed for similar symptoms in the past.