The Most Common Childhood Diseases: Pneumonia

The Most Common Childhood Diseases: Pneumonia

Among the most common childhood illnesses are the common cold, influenza, and RSV which are all treatable and generally easy to manage. However, there is one childhood illness that is both common and dangerous, pneumonia. While pneumonia can be reliably treated here in the US, when left untreated in children and the elderly it can be fatal, which is why it is so important for all parents to understand this common childhood illness. Today we will look at what pneumonia is, when to take your child in to see the doctor, how dangerous pneumonia really is, and some useful prevention tips.

How common is pneumonia?

As mentioned earlier, pneumonia is a very common and highly contagious illness among young children. It has been reported that pneumonia has infected 150 to 156 million children under the age of 5 years in the US alone (Chaunie 2019). Thankfully, because of access to antibiotics and other treatments, pneumonia can be managed and is not as fatal as it once was. 

photo of man embracing child
Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on Pexels.com

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacs in one or both lungs. The air sacs may fill with fluid or pus causing cough with phlegm or pus, fever, chills, and difficulty breathing. A variety of organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, can cause pneumonia” (2020). Depending on the severity of the illness symptoms can range from mild to severe. Here are some symptoms that parents should be on the lookout for in their own children (Chaunie 2019):

  • A cough that lasts for more than a week
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills or aches in the body
  • Loss of appetite
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing

When should I take my child to the doctor?

Since so many of the listed symptoms are similar to the symptoms you would find for the flu or a cold, we recommend taking children under the age of five in to see their doctor. Especially for infants, illness of any kind, especially pneumonia, can escalate quickly. Doctors will often prescribe antibiotics to treat pneumonia so the sooner you can get your child on antibiotics, the more likely their recovery will go smoothly. 

An important note on taking antibiotics, it is very important to follow the prescribed antibiotic treatment at home exactly as it was prescribed. Generally speaking, symptoms will subside 12-36 hours after starting an antibiotic medications and if parents do not take the full antibiotic course as prescribed, the infection could come back (Nationa Wide Children’s Hospital 2019). Following the doctors orders when it comes to proper medication treatment is essential to making a full recovery. 

anonymous female with pills in hand and bottle
Photo by Michelle Leman on Pexels.com

Is pneumonia dangerous?

That’s difficult to answer. Generally, in the US for families with access to treatment, pneumonia is not considered dangerous. However, on a global scale, it continues to leave a deadly impact. UNICEF, also known as the United Nations Children’s Fund, is one of the leading organizations for profiding humanitarian support and aid to children worldwide. Their organization has reposted that pneumonia is the leading infections cause of death among children under the age of five. They estimate that 800,000 children die a year from pneumonia (UNICEF 20108). 

What makes these global figures so heartbreraking, is that pneumonia can be managed with access to antibiotics. Families with access to health resources should be able to treat their child should they contract pneumonia with relatively little complications.  

How can I prevent my child from getting pneumonia?

Establishing good hygiene practices can significantly reduce the risk for contracting pneumonia. Things like watching hands, sanitizing surfaces, and reducing contact with anyone who has been sick can really help prevent pneumonia from coming into contact with your little one. However, the most effective way to reduce the risk is to get your child vaccinated for pneumonia. In the US, access to a pneumonia vaccine is part of the recommended vaccination schedule, it is called the PCV13 vaccines for childrena nd PCV 23 in adults (CDC 2020). While the vaccine is not a 100% guarantee your child will never contract pneumonia, it can greatly reduce the liklihood of contracting the disease and it can also reduce the severity of the symptoms should they get sick.  To learn more about vaccines read on here

Final Thoughts 

My hope is to never be alarmist when it comes to giving new parents advice. When it comes to pneumonia, it is something that needs to be taken very seriously. When treated effectively, most children will recover just fine. As we’ve stated, the key to tackling pneumonia is early detection so be sure to invest in a good monitor for your little one sooner rather than later. 

References

  1. Chaunie Brusie. (2019, July 23). Everything You Should Know About Walking Pneumonia in Kids. Healthline.
  2. UNICEF Childhood diseases. (2018).
  3. Nationwide Children’s Hospital. (2009). Pneumonia.
  4. Mayo Clinic. Pneumonia – Symptoms and causes. (2020, June 13).
  5. CDC (2020) Pneumococcal Vaccination | Center for Disease Control.
What If My Baby Feels Sick?

What If My Baby Feels Sick?

When parents are caring for their sick baby, there are many questions they will likely have: how sick is my child? How can I help treat my child? Should I take my child to see the doctor? All of these are important questions, and we have done the work of answering them for you. 

Signs of Illness

When your baby is sick, there are a few easy first indicators that parents should be able to identify.

thermometer and pills on bed
Fever is a sign. Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels.com

Fever: A high temperature is the first clear indicator that your baby is sick. There are a few different ways to take your baby’s temperature, from digital thermometers to wearable monitors. It is essential to know that depending on the child’s age, the threshold for a high fever changes; that’s normal.

  • Babies under 3 months: a fever of 100.4 is problematic; call your doctor
  • Babies 3 months to 3 years: a fever of 102.2 or above is problematic; call your doctor

Anything that is below the high fever threshold is likely treatable at home. However, if you are still worried, call your doctor to be sure. You can read more about fevers in baby’s here.

Cough: When your child has a cough, there are different kinds of coughs that indicate they might be sick (Forster 2020):  

  • Dry coughing is usually an indicator of a cold or allergies. Generally, a dry cough serves to clear out the throat from postnasal drip or irritation in the throat.
  • Wet coughing can be an indicator of a respiratory illness and can be accompanied by a bacterial infection. A wet cough can mean that there is phlegm or mucus in the airways; it’s why this type of cough is called “wet” and is symptomatic of a bacterial illness.

Having a cough or a fever are the first two clear indicators that your child is ill and often the first thing your doctor will ask. 

Treatment Options

When it comes to treating illness, there are a few things parents can do as a first line of defense option to helping their child recover:

  • Drink fluids, being hydrated is important and can help children (and adults, too) recover from their illness.
  • Infant/Children’s Tylenol is a great way to bring down your child’s fever. Be mindful of the dosage! The amount of Tylenol you can give to a child is based on weight. 
  • Humidifiers can help by keeping moisture in their air that your child is breathing. This will help keep their nasal passages from drying out as well, which will also help them breathe.
  • Nasal aspirators (or bulb syringes) can help suction any mucous out of your baby’s nose if they cannot use a tissue effectively. While it’s not a great long-term solution to their illness, it can help alleviate some short-term symptoms that can help your child get back to bed or feel more comfortable. 
  • Saline solutions are a great way to loosen up any mucous-causing congestion in their nasal passage. A few saline solution drops work well, and because it’s a simple solution, you don’t need to worry about dosage; it’s perfectly safe.
mother with son on lap in armchair
Being hydrated is important and can help recover from the illness. Photo by Tatiana Twinslol on Pexels.com

Having some safe treatment options available can help parents confidently care for their child. However, there are absolutely some things you should NOT do to treat your sick child:

  • DO NOT prop their mattress up at an incline for babies under the age of 6 months. The advice to help children sleep at an incline to alleviate congestion is not an altogether bad piece of advice, but it must be done safely. Infants under the age of 6 months don’t yet have the head stability or strength to correct their position if something were to go wrong, and this can lead to very serious suffocation risks. 
  • DO NOT give your baby cold medication under the age of two. While there are over-the-counter cold medications available, it is highly discouraged because it can be dangerous (Mayo Clinic 2019).
  • DO NOT give your child any antibiotics without having first checked with their doctor. Your child’s doctor will be able to prescribe a safe antibiotic for your child and provide the proper dosage that they need. 
  • DO NOT let the baby sleep in your bed. Cosleeping is already an altogether heated topic among parents. However, having your baby sleep in bed when they are sick and possibly medicated can create a dangerous sleeping environment for the baby. I know that your baby likely sleeps better when they are with you; you’re where they are most comfortable! But be mindful of keeping their sleep environment safe.

When To See a Doctor

While being able to treat an illness at home is a good thing, there is a point when you need to bring your child in to see the doctor. Recognizing when to keep your child home and when to bring them in for treatment can be a complicated threshold to gauge. Here are some red flags to look out for that mean it’s time to bring your child in to see the doctor:

  • A high fever, specifically one that is over the limit for their age, requires medical assistance. As a reminder, for babies under the age of 3 months, a fever over 100.4 requires medical assistance; babies and children ages 3 months to 3 years, a fever over 102.2 requires medical assistance. Don’t wait on something like this to see if the fever goes down; take them in for treatment.
  • When there is difficulty breathing, seek medical assistance immediately. Coughing is one thing, but gasping for air is another. You don’t want this to be left unchecked so if you do notice that your child is having difficulty breathing, gasping for air, or short of breath, take them in to see the doctor immediately.
  • If your child is having seizures, make sure they are in a safe position so they won’t harm themselves and call 9-1-1 or get help immediately. Seizures can be terrifying for both the parents and the child; don’t panic. You will want to make sure your child is on their side to prevent choking, make sure there are no objects around that could cause harm and do not open their mouth or put anything in their mouth. Seek medical assistance immediately (Jajou 2021). 
crop man putting medical mask on face of ethnic child
In some cases, you need to bring your child in to see the doctor. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on Pexels.com

Whether it is a fever, a cough, or something more serious, knowing how to help care for your sick child is something that every parent needs to know how to do. That said, if you are ever uncertain about if the symptoms your child is experiencing need medical treatment or not, air on the side of caution and take your child in to see a doctor — ease of mind matters for parents who are caring for their baby. You should always be confident in your parenting decision, especially when taking care of your sick baby. 

References:

Forster, E. (2020, May 27). How to Decode Your Baby’s Cough. Parents.

Mayo Clinic. (2019, May 21). Common cold in babies – Diagnosis and treatment – Mayo Clinic.

Jajou, J. (2021, April 9). What Are Infant Seizures? How Do I Know If My Baby Is Having One? HIE Help Center.

How To Respond To Your Baby’s Temperature: And What To Do If It’s Abnormal

How To Respond To Your Baby’s Temperature: And What To Do If It’s Abnormal

Every first-time parent gets concerned when they see their child is starting to run a fever. Even veteran parents may experience a memory lapse when it comes to remembering how to care for a baby with a fever. Sure, veterans parents have done this before–but that was years ago and lets be real, those early months are a blur. If you find yourself in need of knowing how to care for a baby with a fever there are a few things you need to know. 

It’s hard for parents to know what the right thing to do is–we understand. We as parents are all doing our best to love our little ones to the best of our abilities and make sure they are healthy. Part of that means caring for them and being informed. We need to look at what causes fevers, how we measure fevers, and what to do when the fever is abnormal

What Causes Fevers?

Fevers can be caused by any number of things from an overdressed infant, to a hot summer day, and even as a small reaction to a recent vaccination. A fever doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby is sick, it is a symptom of illness. The struggle for parents is to determine if the fever is being caused from something innocuous, like a hot day or being overdressed, or if it’s being caused by an illness.

smiling woman with a baby reaching for a flower
Photo by Anastasia Shuraeva on Pexels.com

According to *Advanced Pediatrics Associates, “Most pediatricians consider a temperature 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher a sign of a fever”(Fever and Your Child, 2021). If the fever is being caused by an illness there are some other symptoms that are usually paired with the fever. Additional symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, or change in sleeping patterns. That being said, if the fever exceeds 100.4 call your pediatrician regardless of if there are secondary symptoms of illness. Fevers in children, especially babies, can change dramatically for the worse with seemingly no warning so monitoring their temperature is critical when assessing their condition. 

How Do You Take A Baby’s Temperature?

There are a few different ways to take a baby’s temperature. The first thing to consider is which device you plan to use to take your baby’s temperature with. Here are some options to consider…

  1. Digital Thermometer: Digital thermometers are the most common devices to use when taking a temperature. They can be taken through the rectum, the mouth, or under the armpit and left in that sport for a few moments before the device will display the temperature. When it comes to babies and children, it can be a hassle to fight them for the few moments the device needs to get a reading, but it’s workable and often what most parents of babies and children use.
  1. Digital Ear Thermometer: These devices can be a little more expensive but they are quick to use. You inset the device into the baby’s ear and in seconds a temperature reading will display. Some parents like these devices over traditional digital thermometers because you don’t have to fight the baby as much to get the reading. However, know that there are disposable ear tip caps that need to be replaced often because of earwax buildup.
  2. Temporal Artery Thermometer: Before covid hardly anyone had seen these devices and now they have become commonplace. These are the forehead scanners that can get a temperature reading. They are simple to use, place the scanner on the baby’s forehead and in a few seconds a temperature reading will display. These devices are expensive and most households don’t have these. They are great when a daycare or a school needs to get the temperature reading of a lot of babies or children in a small amount of time. It is worth noting that of the temperature taking devices, this is the least accurate device on the market.
  3. LoveyQ Monitor: This is a wearable device designed for babies that can read your baby’s temperature regularly. What makes the device really useful is that while it checks your baby’s temperature it also monitors other symptoms such as heart rate, breath, cough detection and so forth. This way if your baby has a low fever at bedtime, the LoveQ device would alert you if their temperature has a sudden spike overnight. This product offers continuous monitoring and can track a multitude of different vital signs, as well. This allows parents to get a complete picture of their child’s overall well being. 

How you take your baby’s temperature matters. For the sake of accuracy you need to make sure you are taking their temperature correctly and often. The Mayo Clinic has some helpful guidelines for how to safely and accurately take a temperature (Thermometer Basics: Taking Your Child’s Temperature, 2020). Whatever device you choose to use, make sure you monitor for other symptoms and check their temperature often. 

What Do You Do When Your Baby Is Sick

In the event your baby’s fever is, infact, due to illness there are a few things you can do to help care for your sick little one. 

  1. Medication: Knowing what medication to take really needs to get approval from your pediatrician first. Generally, for fevers, infant Tylenol is the recommended course of action for medication. The dosage will depend on how much your baby weighs. There is also a helpful insert inside the box as well. As always, check with your pediatrician before giving your baby any medication to make sure it is safe.
  2. Hydration: Keeping you baby hydrated is important. Babies get most of their hydration from their milk. However, when your little one is sick, their appetite is often off as well. The recommendation is to take pedialyte . It is a simple electrolyte solution that is safe for babies and it’s effective at rehydration. It’s simple, it’s sweet, and you don’t need a prescription to get any, most drug stores have this in stock (Pedialyte for Babies: Benefits, Dosage, and Safety, 2020).
  3. Congestion Relief: It’s important to note that kids under the age of 4 are difficult to treat for congestion relief because most decongestants are not safe at that age. Some helpful, non-medicinal, treatment options for congestion relief include…
    1. Saline solution
    2. Bulb syringe
    3. Humidifier or steamer
  4. Sleep: This is a hard one because babies and toddlers often rely on their caregivers for comfort and this can make sleeping while sick really tough. This means a lot of cuddles and anything to help make your little one comfortable. 

Being sick is not fun for anyone, babies included. Truth be told, it isn’t fun to be the parent responsible for caring for a sick baby, either. Make sure you ask for help if you’re getting overwhelmed caring for your baby, too. It’s exhausting, but as parents we do everything out of love.


What Do You Do When The Fever Is Abnormal? 

An abnormal fever is something all parents are fearful of and it can be easy to think that any fever could be an abnormal fever. An abnormal fever is one that lasts longer than 2-3 days or is coupled with a secondary concerning symptom. Examples of concerning symptoms include severe trouble breathing, seizure, shaking or chills, trouble moving, or any medical history that is indicative of a weakened immune system. When it comes to abnormal fevers in babies the key to managing the illness comes down to constant monitoring of symptoms. This is where having a wearable device, like LoveyQ, is absolutely critical to managing and tracking your baby’s symptoms so that they can get the care they need. 

woman and her child sitting while holding a cat
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Now that you know the basic ins and outs of navigating your baby’s fever, rest easy knowing that there is a community of parents cheering you on and supporting you. We are all here to help support each other and share what we know. All babies get sick sometimes and you can handle this–you’re doing a great job!

Nicole Tursich

Sources:

Fever and Your Child. (2021, January 14). Advanced Pediatrics 2019. ).

Pedialyte for Babies: Benefits, Dosage, and Safety. (2020, May).

Thermometer basics: Taking your child’s temperature. (2020, November 20). Mayo Clinic.

Why is it important to keep track of the baby temperature?

Why is it important to keep track of the baby temperature?

If there is a question that being asked a lot by pediatricians when your child is sick, it will be “does he/she have a fever?” And there are good reasons for them to ask that question since it could be an indicator that your child is fighting some infections, or it could be something more serious. Fever not only makes our child uncomfortable, but it could also result to other problems, such as dehydration, or convulsion (febrile seizures).

Therefore, it is important to keep track of the baby temperature, especially in the first few months and years of life.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It is amazing that we have a smart “thermostat” in our own body. Interesting fact, do you know that hypothalamus (which is a part of our brain!) is responsible for regulating our own temperature to make sure everything works properly? In babies and children, the normal average temperature is between 97.9°F (36.6°C) to 99°F (37.2°C). However, there are time that the body temperature rises in response to infection, illness, or other environmental factors. 

One of the common causes is overdressing your child, especially newborns since they don’t regulate their body temperature very well yet. Sometimes, immunization could also cause low-grade fever. It is a sign that the body is developing the immunity. The fever can also be caused by either viral or bacterial infection. Colds and flu are the most common viral infections. The symptoms can start with fever and follow with runny nose, cough, loose stools, or rash (roseola). A bladder infection and strep throat are good examples for bacterial infections which often cause unexplained fever, or more extreme example is sepsis (a bloodstream infection). Bacterial infections and fever in newborn babies (3 months or younger) are serious. It can get worse very quickly and need to seek medical treatment immediately. There is also meningitis, a very rare but serious bacterial infection, that infects the membrane cover the spinal cord and brain, and if it is not treated immediately could cause brain damage. It is always best that parents get medical attention and advice for fevers.

Myth vs. Fact, research show that “teething” does not cause fever contrary to many believe.

There are many ways to get children temperature from temporal artery, ear, oral, armpit to rectal. And there are many options available for thermometers as well: digital thermometer (specifically designed for ear, temporal or rectal), skin strip, or infrared thermometer. Tips for parent, ALWAYS use digital thermometer to check children temperature, and for my international friends NEVER use mercury thermometer (since I know that US has not been produced or sold mercury thermometer in years). Skin strip is not recommended since it doesn’t give accurate result, especially for newborns. Even though rectal measurement is more recommended, it is certainly not the easiest way to achieve the result. 

If you have ever done it, holding a screaming, irritable child in the middle of the night, trying to measure his/her temperature, while he/she is wiggling away is never an easy process. And just when he/she is falling asleep, you would want to measure it again to make sure everything is good. And here we go, the cycle repeats itself, until the sun rises, and you haven’t slept a wink. But as soon as you hold that baby in your arms, looking at him/her sleeping peacefully, all that tiredness and worry disappeared. That is a part of being a parent!

P.s: Just make sure that you invest in a nice thermometer or baby temperature monitor to keep an eye on your child wellbeing and make those challenging night a little bit easier on both of you and your child.

Anne Lonero