Parents may often perceive antibiotics as a cure-all for every illness. But although antibiotics are a powerful tool for fighting bacterial infections, there are downsides to using them. Overuse and inappropriate use of antibiotics can lead to the emergence of bacteria that are stronger and resistant to the current antibiotics we have available. In fact, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared antibiotic resistance as one of the world’s most urgent health problems.
“When parents come in with their sick child, they want them to get better as quickly as possible and may assume an antibiotic prescription is the answer,” says Stephanie C. Chiang, M.D., MPH, a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “But they should only be prescribed when truly necessary.” Read More about Antibiotics: Yes or No?
Parents are often surprised to learn that young children typically have between seven to 10 colds (viral respiratory infections) a year for the first few years of life, especially if a child is in daycare or preschool.
Although colds can create a lot of misery for children and parents, most of them resolve within two weeks. The typical course is fever (and often a sore throat) for the first one to three days of illness followed by a runny nose, congestion and coughing. These symptoms worsen during the first week and then gradually improve over the second week.
“Parents often have two pressing questions when their child has a cold,” says Cara Barone, M.D., a pediatrician at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “They want to know how to ease their child’s discomfort and how to know when it is something more serious.”
Dr. Barone offers three tips for making children comfortable while the cold runs its course.
At first it starts with a cold and a mild cough that doesn’t go away. Then it gets worse – especially at night – and you find your child gasping for breath when he coughs.
Is it a winter cold or is it whooping cough?
Parents have good reason for this concern: Colds and pertussis begin with similar symptoms, so it’s hard to tell the difference at first. But whooping cough is a highly contagious disease that gets worse after a few weeks, while common colds improve. People develop uncontrollable coughing fits that make it hard to breathe. In rare cases, especially in young babies, it can be fatal.
The disease is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis, and tends to run in three- to four-year cycles, says Charles Weiss, M.D, MPH, an urgent care specialist and the chair of the Infectious Disease Committee at PAMF. In 2013, 1,904 cases of whooping cough were reported in California, nearly twice the number as in 2012. Of those, 168 cases were in PAMF patients, mostly children.
Drs. Barone and Weiss say there are two key ways parents can protect their families. Read More about Is It a Cold or Is It Whooping Cough?
During the winter season, nearly every parent worries about “the flu” (influenza). This year the predominant influenza strain circulating is pH1N1, the same strain that caused severe illness in adolescents and young adults, as well as older adults, in 2009-2010.
If your child comes home sick with a sore throat and runny nose, how can you tell if it’s the flu or a common cold virus? That’s a question pediatric infectious disease specialist Mary Ann Carmack, M.D., Ph.D., hears every week at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.
“Both are caused by upper respiratory viruses, so the symptoms can be similar. But the hallmark of influenza is that it’s generally much more severe, with higher fever which typically lasts days longer, muscle aches, headache and cough,” she says. Cold viruses typically cause a runny nose, sore throat, cough and a lower fever if one at all.
Dr. Carmack offers these five tips for parents to help their children stay healthy.
Nearly every parent has felt their child’s hot, feverish forehead and worried. Is it serious? How high is too high? Should they go to the doctor?
Few symptoms scare parents more than fever, says Palo Alto Medical Foundation pediatrician Cara Barone, M.D. But it’s important to know when to treat, and when to let nature take its course. Here, Dr. Barone answers parents’ most common questions about fever, and offers tips on how to take your child’s temperature properly.
Parents often wish they had a crystal ball to help them figure out whether their sick child needs urgent medical attention. Is the sore arm after a fall really broken? Is the rising fever a sign of serious illness?
Palo Alto Medical Foundation pediatrician Lauren Brave, M.D., says everyone wants to avoid unnecessary and costly trips to the emergency room, but it’s also important to trust your instincts as a parent. When in doubt, try to contact your doctor for advice. If you think your child’s life is in danger, don’t hesitate. Call 911 or head for the nearest ER.
Here are Dr. Brave’s top tips about how to handle urgent medical care for your child.
When should I go to urgent care instead of the emergency room?
Urgent care centers can treat moderate, unforeseen medical problems that – while not emergencies – require care within about 24 hours. For example, this might include a cut that needs stitches, abdominal pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea, a sore throat, severe cough, or worsening of an existing condition, such as mild to moderate asthma. Routine injuries such as sprained ankles, simple fractures or minor falls are also appropriate for urgent care. Read More about When to Go to the Emergency Room