It starts with a sneeze, a sniffle and a small cough – then you get the call to pick your child up from school. The sneeze turns into a full-blown cold and the cough gets louder. Now you’re concerned, but also confused – it sounds bad, but you’re not sure how long to wait before you bundle up your little one and head to the pediatrician’s office. Understandably, you don’t want to run the doctor for every little thing but sometimes waiting can only make things worse.
Coughing is the body’s natural mechanism for clearing airways, but it’s not always easy to tell what’s going on from just the sound. However, there are important clues and key differences. From “wet” sounding heavy coughs, to more persistent raspy hacks, here’s what you should keep an eye out for:
Wet cough, lots of mucous
Pneumonias are either caused by viruses like rhinovirus, influenza and respiratory syncytial virurs (RSV), or bacteria like staph or strep.
Fluid or pus fill one or both air sacs in the lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms can include fever, chills, coughing up mucous, chest pain, fatigue, rapid breathing or shortness of breath.
Children age two or younger with symptoms, especially a fever of 39 C or higher, should see a doctor right away. If fluid in the lungs is suspected, an x-ray may be needed to confirm. If the pneumonia is bacterial in nature, a course of antibiotics may be given. If viral pneumonia is the culprit, fever reducing medicines may be used and a humidifier recommended to help break up mucous.
In older adults, pneumonia may manifest in a totally different way. There may be fewer or milder symptoms, lack of fever, or a non-productive (no mucous) cough. A big red flag is a change in cognitive function. Confusion or delirium is common. Pre-existing lung conditions may suddenly worsen.
Dry cough and fever
Bronchitis causes inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes triggered by a virus that either accompanies a cold or shows up after a different type of respiratory infection.
Kids can easily contract or spread bronchitis by coughing without covering their mouths or touching their eyes, nose or mouth after contact with an infected person.
A dry, nagging cough that eventually turns moist and accompanied by thick white, yellow or greenish mucous is a sign that bronchitis is present. Other tell-tale signs can include a mild fever, chills, a wheezing or whistling sound when breathing, shortness of breath or a feeling of soreness or tightness in the chest.
A doctor will typically recommend bed rest and a cough suppressant. An inhaler may also be prescribed for acute cases. Tinctures and homeopathic remedies can help to soothe an irritated respiratory tract. Thyme can help to reduce coughing and get rid of mucous and can be used in children four and older.
Cough with swelling and inflammation
The tonsils are the first checkpoint germs have to pass before they can enter the rest of the body. Sometimes bacteria and viruses get into the tonsils and cause an infection, or tonsillitis.
While tonsillitis doesn’t usually cause a cough, it may be present in some cases. This illness has shorter symptom list, but can cause your little one a great deal of pain. If you look in your child’s throat and see red, inflamed tonsils with a yellow or white coating and swollen glands accompanied by a fever, he may have tonsillitis.
Tonsillitis can be caused by strep bacteria and cleared up with antibiotics. If it’s caused by a virus, time will allow the body fight the infection on its own.
Croup is a viral infection that usually infects young children. It’s contracted by breathing infected droplets coughed or sneezed into the air by other kids or by touching toys or other contaminated surfaces. Kids between six months and three years are most at risk.
Croup starts in the nasal membranes, then spreads to the larynx (vocal cords) and trachea (windpipe). A barking cough is the most prominent croup symptom, which can worsen at night or with crying and agitation. Symptoms last three to five days and usually don’t warrant a trip to the emergency room except if drooling, rapid breathing, or bluish skin around the nose, mouth and fingernails develops.
Moistening the air with a humidifier, keeping your child in an upright position, rest and fluids usually take care of easing croup symptoms. If coughing persists longer than three to five days, see your doctor.
Prevention and recovery
The frequency of illness can be reduced with preventative habits like frequent hand-washing, and not avoiding things like hand-holding, touching surfaces and then your face. Eyes, noses and mouths are entry ways for bacteria and viruses. Clean hands reduce the risk. Sleep, exercise and proper diet also play a key role in minimizing infection. Kids who are active, eat well and get enough rest have a better chance of fighting off disease.
If a doctor’s visit has ruled out anything serious and bed rest recommended, some of the best remedies simply come from parent’s loving care. Administer plenty of fluids to help thin and flush out nasal secretions. Fruit smoothies and pure fruit juice can be a tasty alternative. Parent insider tip: you can add some Thyme or Licorice tincture to your juice mix to boost the healing and soothing effects!
Warm soup or apple juice can help relieve congestion. Chicken soup has been shown to relieve fever, aches, fatigue and stuffy noses that accompany infection. Finally, a humidifier or a warm bath that generates steam helps to loosen mucous in nasal passages. Adding a couple of drops of menthol oil to a bath for kids over the age of two can help, too.
Orange Naturals has a number of safe and effective products to help alleviate cold and flu symptoms for the whole family. Visit our website to learn more.