Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger
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Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger
Most babies and older children have several mild infections of the respiratory system each year.
Upper respiratory system
The upperincludes the nose, mouth, sinuses, and throat. A child with an upper respiratory infection may feel uncomfortable and sound very congested. Other symptoms of an upper respiratory infection include:
- A runny or stuffy nose. This may lead to blockage of the nasal passages, causing the child to breathe through his or her mouth.
- Irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and decreased activity level.
- Coughing, especially when lying down.
- 105Â°F (41Â°C). that occurs suddenly and may reach
Lower respiratory system
The lowerincludes the bronchial tubes and lungs. are less common in the lower than in the upper .
Symptoms of a lower respiratory (bronchial tubes and lungs) problem usually are more severe than symptoms of an upper respiratory (mouth, nose, sinuses, and throat) problem. A child with a loweris more likely to require a visit to a doctor than a child with an upper .
Symptoms of lower respiratory system infections include:
- Shallow coughing, which continues throughout the day and night.
- , which may be high with some lower infections, such as .
- Irritability, restlessness, poor appetite, and decreased activity level.
- Difficulty breathing. You may notice:
- Rapid breathing.
- Grunting, which is heard during the breathing out (exhaling) phase of breathing. Most babies grunt occasionally when they sleep. But grunting that occurs with rapid, shallow breathing may mean lower infection.
- Wheezing (which is a different sound than croup).
- Flaring the nostrils and using the neck, chest, and abdominal muscles to breathe, causing a "sucking in" between or under the ribs ( retractions).
may have many causes.
influenza (flu) are common viral illnesses in babies and older children. These infections are usually mild and go away in 4 to 10 days, but they can sometimes be severe. For more information, see the topics Croup and Influenza (Seasonal Flu).cause most upper respiratory infections. Sore throats, colds, , and
Home treatment can help relieve the child's symptoms. The infection usually improves on its own within a week and is gone within 14 days.
allergic reaction and antibiotic side effects, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, and yeast infections. also may kill beneficial bacteria and encourage the development of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.are not used to treat viral illnesses and do not alter the course of . Unnecessary use of an antibiotic exposes your child to the risks of an
Viral lower bronchiolitis. Up to 10% of babies and children with of the lower , such as those caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), may develop severe blockage of the air passages and require hospitalization for treatment. For more information, see the topics Acute Bronchitis, Pneumonia, and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Infection.infections may be mild, similar to upper respiratory system infections. An example of a possibly serious is
The most common sites for sinus infection is an example of an upper respiratory bacterial infection.in the upper are the sinuses and throat. A
Bacterial secondary infection or appear as the first sign of a lower respiratory infection. In babies and small children, the first sign of infection often is rapid breathing, irritability, decreased activity, and poor feeding. are effective against .may follow a viral illness as a
Tuberculosis is a less common of the lower .
Allergies are a common cause of. Allergy symptoms in children include:
- Clear, runny drainage from the nose or a stuffy nose. Children often rub their noses by pushing the tip upward with the palm of the hand ("allergic salute").
- Sneezing and watery eyes. Often there are dark circles under the eyes ("allergic shiners").
- Irritability and loss of appetite.
Babies and small children usually do not have asthma. But the number of new cases of increases with .
- In babies and small children, a hacking cough may be the only symptom of mild .
- If worsens, symptoms may include wheezing and shortness of breath after exercise or at nighttime.
- In severe , difficulty breathing (using the neck, chest, and abdominal muscles to breathe) and a high-pitched sound when breathing (wheezing) are the most common symptoms.
- Allergies and For more information, see the topic Asthma in Children. often occur together.
Besides, allergies, and infection, other possible causes of in children include:
- Exposure to cigarette smoke. Tobacco smoke impairs lung growth and development. Children who are exposed to tobacco smoke, even before (prenatal), are more likely to have and other .
- Blockage of the airway by an inhaled object, such as food, a piece of a balloon, or a small toy. For more information, see the topic Swallowed or Inhaled Objects.
- Problems that have been present from birth (genetic causes), such as cystic fibrosis.
Babies and children younger than age 3 may have more symptoms withthan older children, and they may become more ill. For this reason, younger children need to be watched more closely. The type and severity of the symptoms helps determine whether your child needs to see a doctor.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Check Your Symptoms
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind
of care you may need. These include:
- Your age. Babies and older
adults tend to get sicker quicker.
- Your overall health. If you have a condition such as
disease, you may need to pay closer attention to certain symptoms and seek care
sooner. , HIV, cancer, or heart
- Medicines you take. Certain
medicines, herbal remedies, and supplements can cause symptoms or make them
- Recent health events, such as surgery
or injury. These kinds of events can cause symptoms afterwards or make them
- Your health habits and lifestyle, such as eating and exercise habits, smoking, alcohol or drug
use, sexual history, and travel.
Try Home Treatment
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be
able to take care of this problem at home.
- Try home treatment to relieve the
- Call your doctor if symptoms get worse or you have any
concerns (for example, if symptoms are not getting better as you would expect).
You may need care sooner.
in a baby
may include the following:
- The baby is limp and floppy like a rag doll.
- The baby doesn't respond at all to being held, touched, or talked
- The baby is hard to wake up.
- A severe headache.
- A .
- Mental changes, such as feeling confused or much less
function). (to the point where it's hard for you to
- Shaking chills.
If you're not sure if a child's
mild, think about these issues:
With a high:
- The child feels very hot.
- It is likely
one of the highest the child has ever had.
With a moderate:
- The child feels warm or hot.
- You are
sure the child has a .
With a mild:
- The child may feel a little warm.
think the child might have a , but you're not sure.
Symptoms of difficulty breathing can range from mild to severe. For example:
- You may feel a little out of breath but still be able to talk (mild difficulty breathing), or you may be so out of breath that you cannot talk at all (severe difficulty breathing).
- It may be getting hard to breathe with activity (mild difficulty breathing), or you may have to work very hard to breathe even when youâ€™re at rest (severe difficulty breathing).
Symptoms of difficulty breathing in a baby or young child can range from mild to severe. For example:
- The child may be breathing a little faster than usual (mild difficulty breathing), or the child may be having so much trouble that the nostrils are flaring and the belly is moving in and out with every breath (severe difficulty breathing).
- The child may seem a little out of breath but is still able to eat or talk (mild difficulty breathing), or the child may be breathing so hard that he or she cannot eat or talk (severe difficulty breathing).
Severe trouble breathing means:
- The child cannot eat or talk because he or she is
breathing so hard.
- The child's nostrils are flaring and the belly
is moving in and out with every breath.
- The child seems to be
- The child seems very sleepy or confused.
Moderate trouble breathing means:
- The child is breathing a lot faster than
- The child has to take breaks from eating or talking to
- The nostrils flare or the belly moves in and out at times
when the child breathes.
Mild trouble breathing means:
- The child is breathing a little faster than usual.
- The child seems a little out of breath but can still eat or talk.
A baby that is extremely sick:
- May be limp and floppy like a rag
- May not respond at all to being held, touched, or talked
- May be hard to wake up.
A baby that is sick (but not extremely
- May be sleepier than usual.
- May not eat
or drink as much as usual.
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it.
For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and
mild according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature
104Â°F (40Â°C) and
100.4Â°F (38Â°C) to
100.3Â°F (37.9Â°C) and
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5Â°F (0.3Â°C) to 1Â°F (0.6Â°C) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
- High: 103Â°F (39.5Â°C) and higher
99.4Â°F (37.4Â°C) to
- Mild: 99.3Â°F (37.3Â°C) and lower
: For children under 5 years old, are
the most accurate.
You can use a small
to remove from your baby's nose or mouth when a
cold or allergies make it hard for the baby to eat, sleep, or breathe.
To use the bulb:
- Put a few saline nose drops in each side of the
baby's nose before you start.
- Position the baby with his or her
head tilted slightly back.
- Squeeze the round base of the
- Gently insert the tip of the bulb tightly inside the baby's
- Release the bulb to remove (suction) mucus from the
Don't do this more than 5 or 6 times a day. Doing it too often
can make the congestion worse and can also cause the lining of the nose to
swell or bleed.
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the
illness. Some examples in children are:
- Diseases such as , , , and congenital heart disease.
- Steroid medicines,
which are used to treat a variety of conditions.
- Medicines taken
- Chemotherapy and
- Not having a .
Sudden drooling and trouble swallowing can be signs of a
serious problem called . This problem can
happen at any .
The epiglottis is a flap of tissue at the back
of the throat that you can't see when you look in the mouth. When you swallow, it closes to keep food and fluids out of the
tube (trachea) that leads to the lungs. If the epiglottis becomes inflamed or
infected, it can swell and quickly block the airway. This makes it very hard to
The symptoms start suddenly. A person with
is likely to seem very sick, have a , drool, and have trouble breathing,
swallowing, and making sounds. In the case of a child, you may notice the child
trying to sit up and lean forward with his or her jaw forward, because it's
easier to breathe in this position.
Seek Care Now
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
- Call your doctor now to discuss the symptoms and
arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't have
one, seek care in the next hour.
- You do not need to call an
- You cannot travel safely either by driving
yourself or by having someone else drive you.
- You are in an area
where heavy traffic or other problems may slow you down.
- You cannot travel safely either by driving
Call 911 Now
Based on your answers, you need
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Seek Care Today
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The
problem probably will not get better without medical care.
- Call your doctor today to discuss the symptoms
and arrange for care.
- If you cannot reach your doctor or you don't
have one, seek care today.
- If it is evening, watch the symptoms and
seek care in the morning.
- If the symptoms get worse, seek care
Make an Appointment
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical
- Make an appointment to see your doctor in the
next 1 to 2 weeks.
- If appropriate, try home treatment while you
are waiting for the appointment.
- If symptoms get worse or you have
any concerns, call your doctor. You may need care sooner.
Most children have 7 to 10 mild upper respiratory infections each year. Your child may feel uncomfortable and have a stuffy nose. The infection is usually better within a week and is usually gone within 14 days.
Home treatment is appropriate for mild symptoms and can help your child feel better.
- Keep the room temperature comfortable for you and your child. A hot, dry environment will increase nasal congestion.
- Raise the head of your baby's bed about 1 in. (2.5 cm) to 2 in. (5 cm) by placing blocks under the crib. Do not raise just the mattress because it may leave a gap for your baby to roll into. Do not raise the head of the bed if your baby is younger than 6 months.
- Prevent dehydration.
- Let your baby breastfeed more often or give your baby extra bottles. Liquids may help thin the mucus and also reduce (if present).
- Do not awaken your child during naps or at night to take fluids.
- Do not force your child to take fluids, which may cause your child to vomit.
- Give your child extra cuddling and distraction.
- Let your child get extra rest to fight the infection.
- Do not give your child leftover antibiotics or antibiotics or other medicines prescribed for someone else.
- Put a vaporizer or humidifier in your child's room if he or she is breathing through the mouth.
- Lukewarm mist may help your child feel more comfortable by soothing the swollen air passages. It may also help with your child's hoarseness. But do not let your child's room get uncomfortably cold or very damp.
- Use a shallow pan of water to provide moisture in the air through evaporation if you don't have a humidifier. Place the pan where no one will trip on it or fall into it.
- If your child has a stuffy nose:
- Use saline nose drops to help with nasal congestion.
- Use a rubber bulb to suction the nose sparingly. It will help reduce nasal drainage if your baby is having difficulty breastfeeding or or seems to be short of breath. Babies often do not like having their noses suctioned with a .
- Do not give your child oral antihistamines or decongestants unless directed to do so by your child's doctor. Antihistamines and decongestants can cause your child to behave differently, making it harder to tell how sick he or she really is. Studies show that over-the-counter cough medicines do not work very well. And some of these medicines can cause problems if you use too much of them. It is important to use medicines correctly and to keep them out of the reach of children to prevent accidental use.
- If your child has a cough:
- Honey or lemon juice in hot water or tea may help a . Do not give honey to a child younger than 1 year old. It may have bacteria that are harmful to babies.
- Be careful with cough and cold medicines. Don't give them to children younger than 6, because they don't work for children that For more information, see Quick Tips: Giving Over-the-Counter Medicines to Children. and can even be harmful. For children 6 and older, always follow all the instructions carefully. Make sure you know how much medicine to give and how long to use it. And use the dosing device if one is included.
- If your child has a barking cough during the night, you can help him or her breathe better using a humidifier or running a hot shower in the bathroom to make the air moist.
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your child's fever or pain:
Talk to your child's doctor before switching back and forth between doses ofand ibuprofen. When you switch between two medicines, there is a chance your child will get too much medicine.
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your child's doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Difficulty breathing develops.
- Increased drooling develops.
- Cough gets worse or a persistent cough develops.
- Symptoms become more severe or frequent.
It is common for children to develop(such as ) because they are often exposed to other people who have infections and have not built up . There is no sure way to prevent many respiratory illnesses in babies and children. Very young babies are at greater risk for developing complications from respiratory illnesses, so it is important to do what you can to protect them from exposure. The following may help reduce your child's risk for :
- If you have a respiratory infection, such as a cold or the flu, or if you are caring for someone with a respiratory infection, wash your hands before caring for your child. eliminates the germs on your hands and the spread of germs to your child when you touch your child or touch an object he or she might touch.
- If your child goes to a day care center, ask the staff to wash their hands often to prevent the spread of infection.
- Make sure that your child gets all of his or her For more information, see the topic Immunizations. , especially for , , and pertussis (DTaP) and for type b (Hib).
- Breastfeed your baby for at least the first 6 months after , if possible. Breastfed children develop fewer than those who are not breastfed.
- If one of your children is sick, separate him or her from other children in the home, if possible. Put the child in a room alone to sleep.
- Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. If you smoke, quit. If you cannot quit, do not smoke in the house or car. For more information, see the topic Quitting Smoking. irritates the in your child's nose, sinuses, and lungs and increases his or her risk for respiratory infections.
- Avoid giving young children food or objects that may be improperly swallowed and inhaled, such as nuts, popcorn, small candies, or small toys. An inhaled object can lead to a respiratory infection. For more information, see the topic Swallowed or Inhaled Objects.
Preparing For Your Appointment
You can help your child's doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- Did the symptoms start as a cold but now appear to be worse than you would expect from a cold?
- What home treatment have you tried? Did it help?
- What nonprescription medicines have you used? Did they help?
- What prescription and nonprescription medicines does your child take?
- Does your child seem to have any symptoms that indicate an infection in one area, such as pain in one ear?
- Has your child had any other recent illnesses?
- Has your child had his or her routine ?
- Does another member of your family have similar symptoms?
- Has your child been eating, sleeping, and playing normally?
- Have you, your child, or another member of your family recently traveled, either inside or outside of the country?
- Does your child have any health risks?
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical Reviewer William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Current as ofNovember 20, 2017
Current as of:
November 20, 2017