TMH Living Well: Upper respiratory infections often start up with school
School just started and already one of your kids has the sniffles. You might wonder how in the world it could happen so fast. Upper respiratory infections (URIs) thrive in crowded, indoor settings where humidity and fresh airflow are low. Throw in the fact that kids are not always the best at washing their hands or covering their mouths when they cough, and you’ve got a perfect breeding ground for bugs.
Upper respiratory infections include the common cold, but also can involve sinusitis, laryngitis and bronchitis. They are spread through the air and common symptoms include sneezing, coughing and phlegm production, but can also include headache, fever, fatigue, sore throat and wheezing.
How to treat at home
If your child is sick, it’s best to keep her home especially when she has a fever or feels too cruddy to participate. Give her plenty of fluids and encourage rest. Administer acetaminophen to ease a headache or body aches. Nasal decongestants can help temporarily but should be used sparingly. Finally, run a humidifier in her room or have her sit in a steaming shower for 10 minutes when she’s extra stuffy. Most cold symptoms last one to four days and clear up in a week.
When to go to the Walk-in Clinic
“Use the Walk-in Clinic for urgent care when things are acute—symptoms that come on in the past few days or week that are worrisome, or suddenly seem worse,” said Maggie Anderson, PA-C with The Memorial Hospital Walk-in Clinic.
According to a statistical brief published by the National Institutes of Health, upper respiratory infections are the number one reason parents seek same-day urgent care for their children. When breathing seems compromised, some choose to go to the ER instead, especially for babies and toddlers or kids with breathing issues.
“The most common reason I see children in the Walk-in Clinic is cold and cough symptoms related to upper respiratory infections,” Anderson said. “We also see quite a bit of strep throat during the school year.”
Since antibiotics only work on bacterial infections, not viruses, they are usually not administered unless a secondary infection has set in such as bronchitis, a sinus infection, ear infection or pneumonia. Secondary infections can develop seven to 10 days after the start of a URI. Symptoms include a fever or cough that worsens, facial pain or headaches.
“Any time you have a virus, you are more susceptible to a bacterial infection. Most commonly in children this means an ear infection or pneumonia,” Anderson said.
Other reasons for using the Walk-in Clinic
Minor injuries caused by falling or running into something while playing is another common reason to seek urgent care for young kids. For older kids, sprains and strains also make the list. While applying RICE — rest, ice, compression and elevation — works well to treat minor injuries, sometimes a splint or sling is needed.
Many parents use the Walk-in Clinic simply for convenience — and there is nothing wrong with that. It is good, however, to have a regular doctor for your child, a family medicine physician or a pediatrician. They are more able to track your child’s health over time and catch things that are less obvious. If it’s not urgent, make a doctor’s appointment instead.
TMH Walk-in Clinic is open Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., no appointment necessary. Maggie Anderson, PA-C and Jim Zimmerman, PA-C are part of the urgent care team. For more information, call 970-826-2400.
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