Caring for sick kids this season

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Colds and flu have a higher incidence in Manitoba from fall through winter. This season, in addition to seasonal flu, parents and caregivers also need to watch out for respiratory syncytial viruses (RSV), and of course, COVID-19 which is still active.

What is RSV?

According to the Canadian Pediatric Society, RSV is “the most common virus that can infect the lungs and breathing tubes.” It can present as a common cold, but sometimes it can affect the lungs and breathing passages which can become problematic in infants and young children (ProtectMB). While RSV commonly affects children (particularly those who are two and younger), it can also affect adults, but the symptoms are mild.

How do parents know it’s RSV? Symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite and energy
  • Nasal and respiratory congestion

RSV usually lasts for more than a week, with fever typically lasting two days and the peak of illness felt on days four and five (Global News).

How to care for your child

Keep your child comfortable and hydrated if they are experiencing these symptoms. Babies younger than three months or those with chronic conditions should always be seen by a doctor if fever develops.

Older kids with fever may not need to be treated with medicine. Dress them in light clothing and offer cool drinks. However, they may need fever medicine if they become lethargic, uncomfortable, or if they are in pain. Consult your pharmacist about fever medication, especially since there is a current shortage of supply. They may adjust adult medication to child-sized doses. It will be helpful to have this form when you consult the pharmacist.

Monitor your child closely and watch for signs of difficult breathing, fatigue, and loss of appetite.

Babies will need extra help if they are experiencing congestion. Doctors recommend clearing a baby’s nose with saline to allow them to breathe while drinking and swallowing, and to avoid choking.

If you need help with common cold and flu symptoms, you can consult walk-in clinics and urgent care centres. Check the wait times posted online to see which centre nearest you will be able to accommodate you faster. Go to Where do I go? on the WRHA website.

When to bring your child to the ER

  1. Babies younger than three months or those with chronic conditions must always be brought to a doctor if they develop a fever.
  2. If the child has trouble breathing or have lips that look bluish.
  3. Older kids need a doctor’s attention when you see these signs:
    • fever lasts for more than 72 hours
    • loss of appetite or vomiting
    • coughing to the point of choking or throwing up

If you need help assessing the severity of your child’s symptoms, call Health Links – Info Sante at 204-788-8200 or 1-888-315-9257 (open 24/7).

For more serious symptoms, the HSC Children’s Hospital emergency department has specialized emergency care for children and infants with life-threatening conditions. You can also call 9-1-1.

Preventing viral infections this winter

As always, keeping our immunity up, as well as observing simple health measures go a long way. MB Health recommends the following:

  1. Vaccinate for what you can – Get your children (six months and older) vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19.
  2. Stay home when sick – This will prevent others from catching the virus and prevent you from catching other illnesses while you’re vulnerable.
  3. Don’t visit sick kids and babies – RSV is highly transmissible. While you may not be adversely affected, you may come in contact with seniors or people with chronic conditions and inadvertently spread the virus to them.
  4. Practice good hygiene –Wash your hands properly and often.
  5. Consider wearing a mask – Wear a mask in enclosed spaces or outdoors in large crowds.

Sources: ProtectMB – Kid care resources and tips; Where do I go? WRHA; What is RSV? Here’s what to know about the virus as cases surge in Canada, Aya Al-Hakim, Global News; and Accessed November 29, 2022.

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Community Resources

Walk-in clinic, Walk-In Connected Care, Urgent Care, and Emergency wait times are now posted online. This helps patients choose which clinic to go for their specific concern and to know which ones are less busy, especially if the concern is urgent. Go to Where do I go? on the WRHA website.

Visit ProtectMB to see what vaccines are available for you and your kids.

For more tips on caring for a sick child (common conditions and illnesses), go to KidCare MB.

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