'Tis the season for bugs and viruses: Winter care for children

'Tis the season for bugs and viruses: Winter care for children

Helen O’Callaghan says kids can get several infections a year.

Winter is an exciting time of year with the Christmas build-up, but it can also be a worrying time for parents wondering how best to treat seasonal bugs and viruses that children can catch.

The big question is always when to treat it yourself and when to seek medical advice.

Helping parents make that judgement are five new HSE-produced videos, featuring straight-forward information from Ciara Martin, paediatric executive lead with Children’s Health Ireland.

Dr Martin covers common conditions including croup (upper airways infection-causing distinctive ‘barking’ cough), flu, minor illnesses and injuries, and respiratory syncytial virus, a viral illness that affects most children by the age of two.

With effects that can last for a number of weeks, that tends to peak in October/November and February/March.

Dr Martin says it’s normal for children to pick up five infections a year.

In many instances illnesses such as those covered in the videos can be treated at home.

She says it’s an inexact science as to when to bring your child to be checked out by a medic.

“Parents know their child better than any doctor or nurse. If they’re lethargic, tired, not interested in their environment, not eating or drinking, they need to be checked out.”

Very often, parents have already met the bugs their child brings home so they will have some resistance.

“Otherwise, staying hydrated and having good nutrition levels will protect you,” says Dr Martin, adding that careful hand-washing is important in preventing infection-spread.

The HSE has launched a new awareness-raising video on taking antibiotics.

Nuala O’Connor, Irish College of General Practitioners lead advisor on antibiotic resistance, says antibiotics do nothing to help symptoms of viral infections.

“They will not make you feel better. They won’t reduce a fever, relieve a cough or relieve pain.

"Your immune system can fight viruses if you give it a chance. Rest, take plenty of fluids and use paracetamol/ibuprofen to treat fever and pain.”

Visit www.undertheweather.ie for advice on treating common illnesses rather than resorting to antibiotics.

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