Several children are presenting with symptoms of cough at paediatric centres across the city. Paediatricians, who are seeing a steady flow of such children to the outpatient units, said these were primarily viral respiratory infections.

A senior doctor at the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children said there was a small increase in the number of children coming in with complaints of cough and cold that lasted for a week. “There are very few cases of fever. We are also seeing children with throat pain. However, there are no severe cases,” the doctor said.

At Government Stanley Medical College Hospital’s Institute of Social Paediatrics, a doctor said that though there is no spurt in cases, they were seeing children with seasonal cold and fever.

However, a number of private hospitals and clinics in Chennai have been reporting far more such cases. At Kanchi Kamakoti CHILDS Trust Hospital, 30% to 40% of outpatients came in with symptoms of respiratory infections. “There are a lot of viral respiratory infections affecting all ages now. We are seeing children with symptoms of fever, cough and breathing difficulty. While older children are being managed as outpatients, infants less than six months required hospitalisation for nebulisation and sometimes, Intensive Care Unit admission for High Flow Nasal Oxygen,” Janani Sankar, deputy medical director of the hospital, said.

Though they have been seeing such respiratory infections since October-November 2022, she said that the number of cases usually dropped after the second week of December. “This time, it is unusual that we are seeing such symptoms in January. This may be due to the cold weather and lack of immunity in children,” she said.

Vidya Krishna, Paediatric - Infectious Diseases specialist, Apollo Children’s Hospital, said almost 50-60% of children now come with cough and cold to the outpatient department. “There are a lot of viral respiratory infections, and most of them are not being COVID-19 but more of influenza and other respiratory viruses. We are seeing adenoviruses as well. In some, fever lasts longer for a duration of seven days, while there were some cases of conjunctivitis + pneumonia though not very severe,” she said. She said that the cough lasted longer, even up to 10 days and was affecting sleep in children.

If a child was sick, he/she should stay away from school to prevent spread of infection, she said.

A senior paediatrician said cough and wheeze were more in children due to the winter, while fever was less because more are due to self-limiting viral illnesses and allergies. “Physical distancing, masking and washing hands with soap is important. Masking prevents exposure to cold too,” he said. He added that it was important to vaccinate children against flu every year till five years of age.

Dr. Janani Sankar said that masking, especially in schools, will help, and crowded places should be avoided.

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