As soon as the school year begins, pediatricians start seeing more infectious diseases because these illnesses are more communicable in a classroom setting. Poor weather enhances that communicability, so these ailments become even more prevalent during winter months. It can often be difficult for parents to decide which infections can be treated at home and which require a trip to the pediatrician.
We spoke with Dr. Michael Cater, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician, about what ailments parents should keep a close watch for this season, and how to tell when it’s time to make an appointment with their child’s doctor.
Influenza season tends to pick up in late December or early January, Dr. Cater says, but its prevalence in the community depends on how many people get immunized. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months receive an influenza vaccine. However, for this season, the nasal flu vaccine is not available.
Sometimes it is difficult for parents to decide which illnesses can be treated at home and which ones require a trip to the pediatrician. Dr. Cater offers tips on when it’s time to make an appointment:
- Many infectious diseases in children are associated with a fever. If a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher lasts longer than three days, then a visit to the pediatrician is needed for future evaluation.
- Labored breathing that doesn’t respond to home remedies. This could be an indication of a more serious respiratory infection.
- If a child is vomiting and does not respond to dietary restriction.
- Cases of diarrhea when the child doesn’t respond to dietary restrictions.
- Sore throat associated with a fever and tenderness in the neck. This could indicate Strep throat, requiring antibiotics for the most effective treatment.
- Ear pain in conjunction with an upper respiratory infection such as a cold, especially if the ear pain begins four or five days after the onset of the cold. This is highly suggestive of an ear infection, requiring antibiotics for the most effective treatment.
To avoid common infections this season, remember to get your family vaccinated against influenza, and practice proper hand washing technique. Children should wash their hands:
- Before eating
- After going to the bathroom
- After blowing their nose
- After playtime
Use hand sanitizer when you’re on the go and think your child may have touched something contaminated with germs, but use actual soap and water when you see dirt. Spend at least fifteen seconds vigorously washing hands front and back, and between the fingers.
Download this guide to personal hygiene to help prevent the spread of germs this season.