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8 July, 2020

Colds and coughs in babies. When do I seek medical treatment?

by One Fine Baby Team

Baby colds and coughs.

Today we’re talking colds, coughs, milestones and when to see a doctor for your baby. Our lovely friend Edwina Bartholomew from Stay Home Mums, had a great chat with Dr Sarah Gleeson from Family HQ. You can see the video below, and Dr Sarah Gleeson has recapped the learning’s underneath.

There is also a detailed recap on Telehealth here and baby reflux + colic here. Learn more about it from Dr Sarah Gleeson HERE.

With winter well and truly making its presence felt around Australia, we begrudgingly welcome back seasonal coughs and colds that are common in children. We’ve put together a resource packed full of information I often share with my patients.

1. URTIs and LRTIs

Fun to say but, what are they? Upper Respiratory and Lower Respiratory Tract Infections are the names given to the infections that viruses can cause in the throat/nose and lungs. There are lots of types of coughs and the most common is a viral cough. Most are mild and don’t require medical attention and will eventually resolve themselves.

The average preschooler will develop a whopping six colds each year!  Common symptoms include; runny nose, cough, sore throat and ears, and sometimes, a fever. Young children often get “noisy chests”. This is because they have smaller airways and thinner rib cages than adults.

2. What about antibiotics?

Most coughs are due to viral infections, so antibiotics will have no effect. Sarah often says to her patients, “it’s like me prescribing blood pressure tablets for a sore knee.” It simply won’t help, and the risk outweighs the benefit. Most children who take antibiotics do not get better any faster than children who do not take them.

“But my son/daughter is coughing up green phlegm”. Despite what many of us have been led to believe, there is good research to show that the colour of phlegm is not linked to bacterial infections. It’s important to remember that antibiotics are an incredibly precious resource and your GP will only prescribe them if absolutely necessary.

3. When should I keep my child at home?

We all know that the best place for your child to be when they are feeling unwell or miserable is at home. This allows them to rest and recover and stops the community spread of these annoying viruses. It is even more important this winter to stay home and isolate when your child is unwell while we all work against the spread of COVID 19.

Mild symptoms like a runny nose usually won’t require exclusion from school or daycare and your child’s daycare provider or school will have guidelines for when children are required to be kept home, and when they can return to care.

As a general rule, Sarah tells parents that if you need to give them paracetamol or ibuprofen, then they need to stay at home.

Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are safe to give your child when they are suffering from a cold. They are effective in the relief of pain and discomfort associated with fevers, sore throat, sore ears, and body aches. It is crucial to ensure your child receives the correct dose (based on their weight), at the correct time. You can find the appropriate weight-based dosage on the bottle.

Many parents get confused about which medications they can give. It is safe to give paracetamol and ibuprofen at the same time, or as alternating doses. They are different medicines that work in different ways. It’s important to remember that you can only give 4 doses of paracetamol in 24 hours, and 3 doses of ibuprofen in 24 hours.

If your kids are feeling a bit miserable, then giving one-off doses of paracetamol or ibuprofen ‘as needed’ is perfectly fine. However, if your kids are really miserable, I will often tell parents to give regular doses of paracetamol and ibuprofen three times throughout the day (every 6-8 hours). That way you have 1 more dose of paracetamol up your sleeve through the night if you need.

I know first hand that it’s hard to remember what time you gave them their last dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen, especially if more than one of your children is unwell, and it is all too easy to accidentally overdose your child on one of these medications, which can cause liver or kidney damage.

The Family HQ App takes the hassle out of medication dosage and timing, especially when you’re tired and frazzled. It allows you to enter the time and amount of medicine you’ve given your child and takes the guesswork out of when it’s safe to administer another dose.

5. When do I seek medical treatment for my baby?

It’s important to know when to seek help. You should consult your GP if your child;

• won’t drink fluids

• vomits frequently

• is unusually lethargic

• has a fever that doesn’t improve in 48 hours

• has a cough that lasts more than two weeks

• has noisy breathing or wheezing

Occasionally, children will require urgent medical attention and you should call an ambulance or present to the emergency department of your nearest hospital if your child;

• complains of an intense headache

• is pale and sleepy

• is having difficulty breathing or is breathing much faster than normal

• has a fever and is less than 3 months old

• develops a rash that doesn’t disappear when you press a glass against it

Common coughs and colds are a normal (albeit, annoying) part of childhood. For the most part, these coughs and colds will resolve on their own with no treatment aside from time and symptom relief with paracetamol or ibuprofen. Ensuring your child is kept hydrated and can rest will assist them to recover and return to normal life.

Looking for more trusted information about coughs and colds? Then head to www.familyhq.com.au/resources/

Please remember, if your kids are unwell – please keep them at home, and if you’re worried – see your GP.

Dr. Sarah Gleeson

5. Want to be the first to know when Family HQ is ready?

Their app will be ready for download in about 4 weeks. If you would like to check out some of the features and be notified when the app is ready for download, then head to their website www.familyhq.com.au to sign up to their email list. 

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