Young children are often more susceptible to diseases that affect the respiratory tract. “This is due to the fact that their immune system is more immature and, in addition, they are exposed to various agents and infections in kindergartens and schools,” explains Felipe Thorndike Piedra, pediatric allergist at Mutúa Terrassa University Hospital (Barcelona). According to the doctor, a high percentage of respiratory illnesses are usually mild and not of great importance, such as colds and other viral processes: “They are mainly caused by viruses and can cause symptoms such as nasal congestion, cough, sore throat and fever.” .
The specialist notes that families often go to primary health care centers and pediatric departments for advice about these health problems, especially in infants and preschool children. But Thorndike explains that most of them should be treated without the need to see a pediatrician, by rinsing the nose with saline to relieve nasal congestion and/or antipyretics in case of fever or malaise: “If there are warning signs, such as respiratory distress, or poor general condition, this is when it is important to seek adequate medical attention, as specific treatment or special care may be required.
In addition, this expert points out that during the winter months there is a higher incidence of respiratory diseases in children and adults, which coincides with the seasonality of respiratory viruses such as influenza, RSV or rhinovirus and others. Thorndike describes respiratory conditions for which it would be wise to follow the treatment prescribed by a medical professional.
- Bronchiolitis is an acute respiratory illness caused by a virus that infects the bronchioles (the smallest airways in the lungs), usually caused by seasonal respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). It can cause shortness of breath, cough, wheezing, and fever affecting infants and young children.
- Bronchospasm or bronchitis is a respiratory disease that affects the airways and causes inflammation and constriction of the bronchi, causing coughing, wheezing, and respiratory distress (may or may not be associated with fever). Most children with recurrent episodes of bronchospasm usually outgrow it by age 5 or 6, but some may require long-term treatment.
- Pneumonia is caused by an infection of the lung tissue, which can be caused by bacteria or a virus, causing fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Sometimes they are accompanied by chest pain and general malaise, and depending on the severity, hospitalization may be required.
Respiratory allergies: allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma.
“Of the respiratory allergies, allergic rhinitis and allergic asthma are the most common. The former usually causes sneezing, runny nose, congestion, and itching in the nose, which may be associated with eye discomfort. Allergic asthma is the cause of recurrent bronchospasms triggered by inhaled allergens, causing coughing, wheezing and respiratory distress,” Thorndike describes. She also reports that they are triggered by exposure to inhaled substances (allergens) that the child’s immune system perceives as harmful. They are usually suspected from 4–5 years of age in children with frequent non-viral respiratory complaints, although they may present at an earlier age. “Respiratory allergies can be seasonal in the case of pollen, varying with the seasonal pollination of each, usually with more discomfort during the spring months, or it can be more permanent, as in the case of mites, pet dander, or fungi,” spec.
Paediatrician Nacho González, a pediatric pulmonologist, details how the body develops a defense against frequent or persistent exposure to an allergen: by grafting the allergen into the hand. However, the fact that the test is positive or that a specific immunoglobulin against the allergen appears in the analysis does not mean that this child has an allergy, but simply that he is sensitized: “That is, his body has defenses against this allergen. We would say that you are allergic when the symptoms appear. Allergies are symptoms, not tests or tests.
Protection measures and treatment
Gonzalez says that the treatment In allergic rhinitis, oral antihistamines can be used to reduce symptoms or, if the disease is more persistent and does not respond to the above drugs, intranasal corticosteroids. At an older age, the pediatrician considers it necessary to wash the nose to prevent the allergen from entering the skin of the nose. In addition, as he explains, the treatment of allergic asthma requires the use of fast-acting bronchodilators, which can be used in combination with inhaled anti-inflammatory drugs – corticosteroids: “This combination will allow the bronchi to open quickly and reduce inflammation. “.
As a protective measure, Gonzalez assures that the use of masks from seasonal pollen, for example, in the spring, is useful for both the common cold and asthma. As a preventive measure, do not go to open areas early or late in the day when there is a large amount or high concentration of pollen; in case of sensitization to ticks, it is convenient to use anti-tick bedding; dry bedding in the sun and avoid carpets, curtains…where dust accumulates. “The preventive measures that we can follow are those that we have learned in recent years and in connection with the Covid-19 pandemic,” he repeats. Gonzalez urges people to wash their hands thoroughly and use masks, and to avoid contact with sick people or people with respiratory symptoms. “If there is obvious difficulty in breathing,” the expert continues, “it is recommended to consult a pediatrician to examine the child.”
You can follow Mamas & Papas on facebook, Twitter or register here to receive our bi-weekly newsletter.