Memorial Regional Health Living Well: Treating upper respiratory infections in infants
As a new parent, it’s scary when your infant or young baby comes down with a cold. Since babies younger than six months can’t clear mucus on their own, they often get stuffy and fussy and can have difficulty breathing. Here’s what to do when your baby catches a cold or upper respiratory infection.
What’s bugging your baby
Winter is a common time for viruses to make their way through communities. Common infections include croup, RSV, the common cold and bugs such as enterovirus. Common symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat, cough, mild headache, fever early on and feeling tired and ill. With viral infections, the best treatment is still lots of liquids and rest. Most will run their course in 7 to 14 days.
“Sometimes, babies develop a secondary infection, such as bronchiolitis, if the mucus drains into the lungs, or pneumonia,” said Anessa Kopsa, respiratory therapist with Memorial Regional Health.
“Run a humidifier, or sit with your child in a steaming bathroom throughout the day. With babies, use a bulb syringe, along with saline drops, to clear mucus. Babies younger than 6 months haven’t developed the skill to breathe through their mouths yet, so they need help,” advised Dr. Kristie Yarmer, pediatrician with Memorial Regional Health.
When to call your doctor
“A telltale sign that you should bring your child in for a visit is a lasting fever. A temperature of 100.4 is considered a fever. Fevers are common during the first 72 hours of an illness, but if they last longer than that or start after three to four days of illness, it can mean a secondary infection,” Yarmer said.
Another signal you need to see your doctor is if your child is having trouble breathing. Signs that young children are having difficulty breathing include an inability to suck a bottle, rapid breathing, retractions — pulling in their stomachs underneath their rib cage — and wheezing.
“I advise parents of babies to use the bulb syringe up to five times a day. If that is not alleviating symptoms, seek medical care, even in the middle of the night,” she stated.
The Suction Clinic at MRH
The Suction Clinic at MRH is designed for those times when your baby or young child is having trouble breathing due to excessive mucus — at all hours of the day or night. Respiratory therapists use a nasopharyngeal suction machine to suck out secretions. They also evaluate your child by counting the respiratory rate and checking for oxygen saturation.
“Every parent who comes here loves the suction clinic. We are your middle-of-the-night option, outside of the emergency room,” Kopsa said.
The Suction Clinic is open 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Parents visit their doctors and get a prescription for the clinic. It can be used up to four times per day for a week, and no appointment is needed.
The cost is $128 per visit — much cheaper than an emergency department visit for parents, and the visit is billed to insurance. Patients check in at the ED main desk and indicate they are there for the suction clinic.
“What’s so great about the suction clinic is the peace of mind it gives parents. If our respiratory therapist feels a child is low on oxygen or in respiratory distress, he or she can be seen by an ER doctor quickly,” Yarmer said.
For more information about the suction clinic, call 970-826-2480.