Baby Your Baby: Respiratory viruses and young children

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Most children have been infected with a respiratory virus by the age of 2. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Most children have been infected with a respiratory virus by the age of 2. Out of kids with RSV, two to three percent of them actually end up in the hospital which can be quite scary for a parent.

“Late-winter, early spring we see a lot of respiratory viruses,” Dr. Steven Aird, Pediatrician with Intermountain Layton Parkway Clinic, Northern Utah Pediatrics said.

Anyone at any age can become infected with a respiratory virus. For adults, this looks like your common cold, but with children, symptoms can be much more concerning.

“So you get infection of your nose, your throat, you’ll have a sore throat. It can even cause a little fever. The biggest concern is when it becomes a lower-respiratory tract infection. We call that bronchiolitis. It mostly affects kids less than two years old,” Aird said.

Symptoms of lower-respiratory tract illness include chest retractions as well as labor or rapid breathing. A child younger than two typically breathes less than 60 times in a minute. If a child is breathing more than that, then it’s a good idea to have them looked at by their provider.

“My main job is to determine, ‘Is this somebody that’s safe at home or is this somebody that needs to have extra support like some oxygen or other things to help with that?'" Aird said..

If your child is sick, there are a few ways you can help manage their symptoms. This is typically clearing out upper-respiratory secretions.

“You can do things at home to help clear out the upper airway using nasal saline and maybe some suction devices to help keep the airway clear,” Aird said.

One way to build up a young child’s immunity is through breastfeeding. Since mom is exposed to the same virus as the child, she actually builds up resistance to the virus and transfers some of that immunity to the child.

“It’s almost like you’re giving medicine in the breastmilk specifically to whatever virus the child has been exposed to,” Aird said.

If your child is getting worse, especially if they’re struggling to breathe, it’s important to get them to a safe environment, like a hospital, as quickly as possible.

“It’s probably better to overestimate your concern rather than underestimate your concern because things can change so rapidly,” Aird said.

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