We all breathe a sigh of relief when winter ends, believing that the cold and flu season is finally behind us. However, the spring and summer months are not without their own set of illnesses.
Croup is a common illness often seen in early spring. The parainfluenza virus is the major cause of its symptoms, such as inflammation of the upper airways. There is often a barking cough or hoarseness, especially when a child cries. Breathing can be high-pitched, musical or whistling. Kids are more prone to croup when they get a viral upper-respiratory infection.
Some kids can develop significant trouble breathing when they have croup. If this happens, stay calm and try to soothe and comfort your child. If it’s cool outside, put a coat on him, take him out and let him breathe the cool air. This should help reduce the swelling of his vocal cords and give breathing relief. You could also steam up the bathroom, and sit with and continue to soothe your child. If he develops severe respiratory distress, take him to the emergency room or call 911.
The parainfluenza virus can also cause a fever, a hoarse voice, nasal congestion and nasal drainage. Comfort measures are the best treatment. Kids tend to sleep better in an upright position, with pillow propping. Give your child plenty of clear fluids. To lessen any discomfort or fever, use either acetaminophen or ibuprofen, as directed on the package.
Expect the symptoms of croup to last three to four days.
SYMPTOMATIC TREATMENT FOR COLD SYMPTOMS
There are numerous viruses in spring and summer that can cause symptoms such as a stuffy nose, nasal drainage, a mild or low-grade fever, sneezing, a cough, a mild sore throat or decreased activity.
Symptomatic treatment is the best way to keep your child comfortable. Plenty of rest is one of the best ways to help resolve symptoms quickly. Try to provide an environment that’s quiet and favorable for sleep and rest periods. Your child will also need extra fluids, such as soup, gelatin, decaffeinated tea, Popsicles, electrolyte replacers and water. Another helpful treatment is nasal saline spray or drops. The spray can be used in older kids, and the drops in infants. The saltwater will help loosen the mucus in the nasal passages, allowing it to drain better. The salty environment can also slow down the growth of germs in the nasal passages, and speed up recovery.
Most viral illnesses last five to ten days.
Fevers activate white blood cells to fight infection. If your child has a low-grade fever and is not uncomfortable, it’s safe to monitor her, and allow the fever to help extinguish the germ. However, if the fever is 101 or greater, or she is uncomfortable or feeling chilled, you can give her either acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Give acetaminophen to infants under 12 months, and either medication to older children. Use only one medication or the other — do not alternate. Acetaminophen is taken every four hours, and ibuprofen every six hours. Follow the dosage instructions on the package.
A fever should last three to five days. If it lasts longer, or your child has a high fever, a severe sore throat, persistent cough or a change in behavior, your provider should see her.
Debbie Gortowski, MSN, CPNP, is a PNP in a primary care clinic at the University of Illinois College of Medicine-Rockford.