Winter is Here…. and so are the various illnesses! Coughs, colds, vomiting, diarrhea – you name it, it’s out there. In fact, many of you may be experiencing one or more of these in your own home. Often the most difficult thing for parents is knowing what whether to wait it out or get it checked out. Another common concern is whether an illness requires antibiotics or not.
In general, it is okay to wait 24 – 72 hours before rushing to the doctor. This rule of thumb stands if your child is able to take fluids, is urinating every 8 hours, and still has periods of alertness or brief playfulness. Times when waiting would not be appropriate include children less than 3 months of age, children who cannot maintain their hydration, and children with underlying co-morbid conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, immunodeficiency, etc.). That being said, you know your own child best, and we are always happy to evaluate a child about whom a parent is concerned.
Viral illnesses versus bacterial illnesses
Viral illnesses are caused by a group of organisms which do not respond to antibiotics. A bacterial illness is caused by a group of organisms (mainly bacteria) that do respond to antibiotics. The majority of childhood illnesses are, in fact, viral. The tricky part is figuring out which is which.
In children, viruses and bacterial illnesses can cause similar symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose, and sore throat. Many parents may feel that a trip to the doctor was not successful if an antibiotic was not prescribed. As physicians, many of whom are parents as well, we certainly understand the desire for a quick resolution to an illness for both our children’s sake and our sake.
Despite this, prescribing antibiotics inappropriately can cause potential harm to your child and can create antibiotic resistance in the surrounding community. Antibiotics do their job well because they kill off bacteria. Unfortunately, the antibiotic is not always discerning enough to kill off only the bad bacteria. Therefore children can get intestinal upset, be more susceptible to harmful intestinal bacterial overgrowth, get yeast (vaginal and skin) infections, and overall be less susceptible to that particular antibiotic next time that it is prescribed appropriately. Examples of some illnesses that cannot be treated by antibiotics because they are viruses include the common cold, flu, and mono.
RSV – a quick note
Many of you may be hearing the buzz word “RSV” in the community right now. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that acts like the common cold in older children and older adults but can lead to more serious respiratory effects in babies and young children.
We thought it was important to touch upon this topic in our blog because of the prevalence but also lack of understanding of this virus. RSV is the name of the actual virus that causes the symptoms of the lungs and respiratory tract. Because there is no medication for RSV, the treatment consists of supportive care and frequent monitoring. In extreme cases, some young children may require hospitalization for respiratory support (such as oxygen) but most often children recover from their symptoms on their own. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this virus please do not hesitate to ask.