Friday, August 30, 2013

Dealing with those pesky colds and congestion


With school back in session there is usually an increase in the colds that we see, so I am brushing off an earlier post with some updates.

Colds and coughs are a common issue for all of us with or without kids.
Studies say that most children will have an average of EIGHT colds within the first 18 months of life.

Most of the time the congestion is caused by a viral syndrome. Allergies and teething can also be culprits making you congested.
All that mucous is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which is why something that starts as a virus can turn into an ear infection, sinus infection, or lower respiratory infection fairly quickly.
Be warned,  
We can see a patient one day with clear lungs and no ear issues, and the very next day they can seem a lot worse and have a raging infection.

When to come in:  
If you are dealing with a congested family member, here are the questions to consider. 
*Do they seem to be having any labored breathing?  
Babies with labored breathing will look like their little tummies are going in and out more than usual.
(I am more focused on the lungs than a stuffy nose). Some very noisy breathing is upper airway stuff that we aren't too worried about, so the noise isn't always much of a factor.

*How is their mood?

*Do they have a fever?

*How is the appetite? If your baby is nursing well, that is very reassuring

*Are they sleeping well at night?

* What color is the mucous?

*How long has this been going on?

Many colds and coughs can last between 7-10 days. Some coughs can linger for a few weeks.  

If we have  
a reasonable consolable child
clear mucous
eating and sleeping  are okay
breathing isn't alarming
no significant fever 
 I am okay playing the "wait and see" game.
Of course if the symptoms show no signs of improvement, please check in with your doctors office.

IF you have any labored breathing,  
a child who is much grumpier or fussier than usual 
a fever that is hard to control or has lasted more than 3 days 
 mucous that is getting thicker and greener

that person needs to be seen.

Any baby less then 2 months old is probably worth a look at with their first cold, unless they are eating really well and seem happy. It is certainly at least worth a call to the nurse. 

Management tips:

The best way to manage congestion at home is to make sure your little patient is getting plenty of fluids (this will help to keep the mucous thinner) Breast milk is perfect if you are lucky enough to have it.

With some older kids, cows milk may not be the best choice because it can increase the amount of mucous. (it doesn't impact everyone the same way)

Steam is great. Hang out in the bathroom when anyone takes a shower.
Running a humidifier or vaporizer at night is a good idea. Turn it off during the day and give the room a chance to dry out so that you don't grow mold. Make sure you change the water daily. As long as you follow those rules, I don't have a preference between warm or cool mist. 

Keeping the head elevated makes a huge difference. Some of the younger babies will do best sleeping in their car seats, bouncy seat or swing (make sure it is safe)
Otherwise try a crib wedge or placing a towel underneath the mattress to raise it up a bit.

You can put saline drops or breast milk into the nose (and then suck it out with a Nose Frida or snot sucker). This is the most natural way to clear the nose. Your baby will no doubt hate this, but if you can manage to do it about ten minutes before a feeding, it may clear the nose up enough to make eating much easier.

For patients over 6 months of age, ask your doctor about Windbreaker (a Chinese herb that we use to dry up congestion) Many of our families swear by it. It is sold at the Chinese medicine works on 25th and Noe. For convenience our office tries to also keep it in stock.

For older kids don't minimize the value of chicken soup!

For night coughs try a bit of Vick's Vapo-rub on the feet!


For parents and big kids I really like Sambuccol and Zinc lozenges.
This may be placebo, but in my case I say " bring it on" because they seem to work.
Remember that I work in the germ factory and (knock wood) I manage to avoid many of the things I tend to be exposed to.
The second I feel that little tickle in my throat or any tell tale signs of an illness I take a Zinc cold therapy lozenge (Walgreen's generic taste better and are cheaper) and a Sambuccol lozenge twice a day.

Another very good thing to do for folks who are old enough is to use a Neti Pot or sinus irrigation

Good Hand washing is of course essential.

Wishing you a back to school season that is kind and gentle.

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