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Episode #89 - Respiratory disease in children

22 December 2022 | Science conversation

Summary

Why are we seeing a spike in respiratory diseases in children. What are the symptoms and red flags for parents? How can we protect our children from these infections? WHO’s Dr Wilson Were explains in Science in 5.

Podcast

Transcript

 

Vismita Gupta-Smith

We are seeing a spike in respiratory diseases among children in many parts of the world. What are the symptoms? What are the red flags and how can parents protect their children? Hello and welcome to Science in 5. I'm Vismita Gupta Smith. We are talking to Dr. Wilson Were today. Welcome, Wilson. Wilson, speak to us about this spike that we are seeing in respiratory diseases in children.

Dr Wilson Were

We are seeing a spike in respiratory disease in children, particularly those under ten years of age, beyond the typical flu season we are experiencing during fall and winter months. This unusual spike in cases has been reported in several countries in Europe, including France, Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom and also in the United States. They are seeing an increasing number of children hospitalized with acute respiratory infections caused by common respiratory viruses such as influenza, parainfluenza, respiratory syncytial virus, commonly called RSV, adenoviruses and coronaviruses, including COVID-19. In addition, we are also seeing increasing cases of pharyngitis and skin infection caused by bacteria called group A cryptococcal infection. This may be because we are back to relative normalcy after COVID-19 and seeing viruses and bacteria spread again. Maybe some children do not have prior infections, so don't have any built in immunity. Or maybe some of these viruses changed just a little bit and seem to be spreading faster. Maybe some children are getting multiple infections, so becoming more sicker than usual. So it could be any of these reasons as we try to figure out which particular one.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Wilson, what are the symptoms? What are the red flags that the parents should be looking out for?

Dr Wilson Were

Typically, children will have cold or flu-like symptoms, with a runny nose or nasal congestion sneezing with a scratched throat, irritating throat, a cough, some might have a fever or change in their ability to eat or drink. In most cases, parents and caregivers can manage these symptoms. However, in some cases it may be associated with group A Streptococcal infection. In this case, children will have a sore throat, a headache, muscle pains and a fever, along with a fine reddish rash, which is called scarlet fever. But watch out for the red flags. Worsening of these symptoms. Specifically if your child is breathing too fast or having trouble breathing with the upper tummy getting sucked in which we call chest in-drawing or when the lips or skin are turning blue, or when the child is constantly running a high temperature or throwing up or is unable to breastfeed, drink or eat. And in the case of group A Streptococcal infection, they have painful skin and bones. Then, you know, it's time to immediately consult a health provider or go to hospital.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Wilson, what can parents do to protect their children from these diseases?

Dr Wilson Were

There are three things parents can do to protect their children. First is practice good hygiene. Cover your mouth and nose with a mask or tissue. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Cough in your elbow or sneeze in your elbow. Throw away used tissues immediately and wash your hands. Wash your hands regularly with soap or use a hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. The second thing is to keep up to date with child’s vaccination, including for influenza and COVID-19. The third thing is breastfeeding, if your child is breastfeeding because breast milk is protective against these viruses in young infants.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Thank you, Wilson. That was Science in 5 today. Until next time, then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science. 
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