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Common Respiratory Illnesses in Children Such As Asthma, Bronchiolitis, Croup and Pneumonia


During the fall and winter months we often see an increase in children presenting to the emergency department with respiratory disorders. Some of the common respiratory illnesses seen in children are asthma, bronchiolitis, croup and pneumonia. While it can be heartbreaking and frightening for a parent to see their child not feeling well, an infant or young toddler with a respiratory illness can be extra worrisome for parents since children this age can’t tell you what is wrong.

For some children with asthma, the return of cooler weather or catching a cold can make their symptoms more difficult to control. Bronchiolitis is caused by viruses and usually affects infants and toddlers. Bronchiolitis can develop into coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. If your child has a harsh voice, barky cough and noisy breathing he or she may have croup. Croup is also caused by viruses and affects young children. If your child is diagnosed with pneumonia antibiotics will be prescribed if the infection is caused by a bacteria.

Your child should see their pediatrician for any concerning respiratory symptoms, but here are some of the reasons to seek care immediately:

If you can see your child’s ribs or if the chest or stomach is being pulled in while breathing

If there are any abnormal noises, such as grunting, while breathing

If there is a blue or gray color around your child’s lips or on their face or finger nails

If they are drooling more than normal

If they are not able to swallow

A child that has been diagnosed with a respiratory infection may require more fluids than usual to prevent dehydration if they have a fever or are breathing faster than normal. If your child is diagnosed with a bacterial infection, he or she will be prescribed antibiotics. Be sure to give your child their medication as directed, for the prescribed amount of time. Avoid over the counter cough/cold medications as these are not safe for children. Your child may not be acting like his or her normal self while they are sick, but with a little time and supportive care they will be back on their feet and running around!

Joanne Haley RN, CPEN

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