What are the signs that parents should watch when their child suffers from respiratory diseases?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (CNN) — Respiratory viruses are spreading across the United States at high levels, including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, confusing children’s hospitals and worrying parents of young children.

Although most children who get sick during this season will recover through home care, some will need medical care.

So what should a child’s parents pay attention to, and how do they know when to call the pediatrician or rush to the emergency room?

CNN spoke to Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, director of pediatric telemedicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, about the warning signs of serious illness and steps they can take to help protect their children from germs.

CNN: How quickly can an infant or young child go from being fine to needing urgent medical attention?

Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez: Every child’s condition varies depending on when they show signs that it’s time to rush to the emergency room or to the pediatrician.

My biggest concern is the younger babies, under 6 months old, because their airways are so small.

For children of all ages, their condition may worsen during different stages of any disease.

Babies under 6 months of age can fluctuate quickly and get worse at home, without warning, so it’s important for parents to be aware of the signs and know when to seek medical help.

As for older children, they get sick gradually, and in this case it is also important to know when parents seek medical help.

CNN: As a pediatrician, what warning signs do you look for when it comes to these respiratory viruses that it’s time to go to the hospital?

Bracho-Sanchez: When the child begins to have difficulty breathing, i.e. seems to be making an effort to breathe, it means that it is time for him to go to the emergency room.

Any time a child becomes dehydrated, or at any time the temperature does not subside during home care, or the fever persists for more than three days, this is an indication to visit the doctor.

CNN: We often hear about the signs of ‘shortness of breath’. What do they look like?

Bracho-Sanchez: Signs of difficulty breathing include starting with muscles not normally used for breathing, i.e. using the muscles of the nostrils, then using the muscles between the ribs.

Anytime you notice that a child is using those extra muscles to breathe, or is breathing rapidly, it means they are having trouble breathing, and it’s time to go to the emergency room.

CNN: Is there any point in trying to treat these symptoms at home?

Bracho-Sanchez: If you notice signs of respiratory distress in your child at home, contact your pediatrician. If you know it will take several hours to get to a pediatrician, go to the emergency department.

CNN: When parents notice something is wrong with their child, how do they decide where to go for help?

Bracho-Sanchez: First, when deciding where to take your child, I think it is important to listen to your intuition as a parent.

If you feel your child needs medical attention, go to the emergency room, no questions asked.

If you think your child is gradually getting worse or not getting better, you may want to contact your pediatrician first.

And if your child gets sick over the weekend or when you can’t get to the pediatrician, go to urgent care rather than the emergency.

CNN: Many children’s hospitals across the country are running at full capacity, so if hospital wait times are long, what’s the best option for parents?

Bracho-Sanchez: If your child shows signs of shortness of breath, and you feel it’s time to go to the emergency room, go to the emergency room immediately.

I think it is important for parents of children to know that we as doctors are doing a triage, so that children who need urgent and immediate medical attention are considered first.

For example, children who come because of falls or bone pain may have to wait longer.

But if your child is short of breath, we won’t make him wait, we will help him right away.

CNN: There are vaccines for influenza and COVID-19, but there are no vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus. How can you protect yourself from all these diseases?

Bracho-Sanchez: During the respiratory disease season, there are many factors that parents cannot control, but there are some ways to protect their child from acute respiratory diseases and the complications of these acute respiratory diseases.

This includes the flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine, including all boosters, for those eligible.

It is important to teach children to wash their hands frequently, cough to their elbows, cover cough and sneeze with a tissue if they can, and to stay home if they are not feeling well.

CNN: In addition to a thermometer, are there other devices that would be useful to have in the house?

Bracho-Sanchez: The best device you can have at home as a parent is your informed intuition. Anytime you notice signs of respiratory distress in your child, I don’t think you should waste time trying to get a blood oximeter, or trying extra attempts at home.

When you spot these signs, it’s time to go to the hospital, or call your child’s doctor if you know you’ll be able to get in touch right away.

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