Cold and flu season is almost in full swing. Because children spend most of their time around others at school and the hockey rink, they are more likely to get sick. On average, a child will have five to seven bouts of the common cold each year. But that’s not the only common illness kids can catch others include the flu, ear infections, pinkeye, chickenpox and strep throat.
The common cold - More than 200 different viruses cause the common cold! The virus spreads through person-to-person contact, touching a contaminated surface or breathing in particles after someone coughs or sneezes. Symptoms often include runny, stuffy nose; sneezing; coughing and sore throat, and sometimes, mild aches and pains, fatigue and chest discomfort. If your child isn’t feeling better after a few days of symptoms or has more severe symptoms, visit the doctor. Kids with asthma may have difficulty when they have a cold - talk to your doctor once symptoms begin to make sure their asthma treatment is effective.
Influenza (the "flu") - This respiratory illness is caused by the influenza virus and affects millions of Canadians every year. Flu season runs from November through April in Canada. This virus is spread the same way as the common cold. Symptoms almost always include cough and fever and commonly include fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, runny nose and decreased appetite. Sometimes, symptoms include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Most people recover within seven to 10 days.
Ear infection - More common in kids than adults, ear infections happen when bacteria from the nose or throat get trapped behind the eardrum. Inflammation and fluid buildup can cause pain. Signs and symptoms may include difficulty sleeping, headache, loss of balance, fever, drainage of fluid from the ear and difficulty hearing. If your hockey player is in severe pain, symptoms last longer than a day or fluid, pus or blood is discharged, see the doctor as soon as possible.
Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) - Most cases are caused by a contagious virus or bacteria. Symptoms include eye redness; swollen, red eyelids, and itching or burning drainage from the eye. Because it’s very contagious, preventing the spread of pinkeye is important. Kids should not attend school or hockey games or practices until cleared by a doctor.
Chickenpox (varicella) - Children get this common, highly contagious virus from touching someone’s open chickenpox blister or being near an infected person that coughs or sneezes. The first signs include a low fever, runny nose and sore muscles. A couple of days later a rash will appear which then turns into itchy, fluid-filled blisters. This illness usually runs its course within 7 to 10 days. Vaccination can prevent chickenpox or minimize its severity.
Strep throat - This bacterial infection is very contagious and most common among children ages 5 to 15. The complications of untreated strep throat can be severe, so it’s important to catch and treat it early. Take your child to the doctor if he or she has a sore throat but no cold symptoms, a sore throat and tender or swollen lymph glands, problems breathing or difficulty swallowing anything, or a sore throat that last longer than 48 hours.
Because the common illnesses discussed above are all contagious, it’s best for your child to stay home so he or she doesn’t infect teammates and peers. Here are a few ideas that can help your all-star recover quickly:
Rest - Having a fever means the body is fighting infection. Exercising at this time will add more stress to the body and can delay recovery. Rest helps the body fight infection.
Stay hydrated - Give your child plenty of fluids such as water, soup or fruit juice to prevent dehydration.
Stock up - Prepare for cold and flu season with throat lozenges, extra boxes of tissues and extra toothbrushes and thermometers for each member of the family.
See the doctor - If you have concerns about severe or unusual symptoms or your child is sick for an extended period of time, visit the pediatrician. Do not give your child or teen aspirin unless recommended by the doctor.
Keep vaccinations up-to-date!
- Vaccines are rigorously tested before being approved and have reduced or eliminated diseases such as smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus and whooping cough.
- Ask your child’s doctor for an immunization schedule, and make sure your child’s shots are up-to-date.
- Flu shots. Each fall local Public Health Units across the country provide the seasonal influenza vaccine (flu shot) free of charge. Check with the health authority in your region for more information
Daily do’s and don’ts:
- DO teach your kids to routinely wash their hands with soap and warm water.
- DON’T touch your mouth, eyes or nose without washing your hands.
- DO cough and sneeze into your arm or sleeve instead of your hands.
- DO clean and disinfect commonly shared items including television remotes and telephones.
- DON’T share food or other things that go into the mouth - that means no double-dipping!
- DO make sure your child gets enough rest and good nutrition to help keep his or her immune system in peak condition.
- DO make sure your child has his or her own contact lens equipment, towels, linens and pillows to help prevent the spread of pinkeye.
- DO give your hockey player his or her own water bottle to use at practices and games. Sharing water bottles can spread bacteria and viruses.
There is no way to completely protect your child from illness, but taking some smart precautions can help decrease his or her risk. Make sure the hockey stars in your family recover from their busy schedules with enough sleep and healthier meals and snacks to help keep their immune systems in tiptop shape. Missing a couple of practices or games is worth it if it means a faster recovery!
The content of this newsletter is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.