Kids Health Matters: Dealing with cold, flu and other viruses this winter

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Last month, jingle bells and carols were the "sounds of the season." This month, coughing, sneezing and respiratory viruses are here.

There's hardly a family hasn't been hit by some upper respiratory virus.

Pediatrician Jonathan Miller says at Nemours duPont Hospital, two are particularly rampant.

"Our hospital's extremely busy managing children with RSV- causing broncheolitis, and flu - causing dehydration or pneumonia," he said.

Dr. Miller says RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, strikes infants and toddlers, looking like a common cold. But the complications are dangerous.

"Pneumonia or syndrome called broncheolitis, which causes inflammation of the airways and wheezing," he said.

A mild case of flu can also look like a cold, but beware with more severe cases, when a child is run down, feverish, and has muscle aches.

"We're seeing a lot of kids who are just feeling so terribly from the flu that they just won't drink, and they get dehydrated from it," said Dr. Miller.

This winter's flu season got an early start and has been dominated by the B-strain.

Although new cases have dropped in the past two weeks, there could be a second wave and Dr. Miller says if your family isn't vaccinated, you're not out of the woods.

"If you got flu B last month, you're still very at risk of getting the other type of Flu B, or the other two strains of A," said Dr. Miller.

For respiratory infections overall, things like a room humidifier, saline spray and - for kids over the age of one - a teaspoon of honey for coughs can make kids more comfortable.

Dr. Miler says skip the over-the-counter cold and cough products.

"They don't work in the doses that are safe. And they're not safe in doses that might actually work," he said.

There's a vaccine for flu, but not for colds or RSV, so hand washing, and covering coughs and sneezes is even more important.
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