Horizon pediatrician shares advice on keeping children healthy over the holidays

(HORIZON) – Respiratory infections are making the rounds in our communities, and the surge in flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and COVID-19 cases is putting parents and physicians on alert.

Horizon is seeing significant increases in the volume of patients presenting to our Emergency Departments (EDs) with severe symptoms of respiratory illness, including a number of young children.

Horizon pediatricians want to help parents identify what their children may be suffering from and know what to do to care for their little ones.

“While it can be hard to tell if someone is sick with the common cold or something more severe such as COVID-19 or the flu, we encourage everyone to stay home if sick, wear a mask, especially indoors, wash your hands regularly, and stay up to date with the safe and effective vaccinations readily available to both children and adults,” said Dr. Paul Maloney, Acting Clinical/Academic Head for Pediatrics for the Saint John area and pediatrician at Horizon’s Saint John Regional Hospital.

“If we all follow these guidelines we are helping to keeping everyone in our community safe — including the most vulnerable, such as babies and young children, as well as seniors,” said Dr. Maloney. 

Knowing the symptoms

“It can be difficult to know what your child is suffering from when the symptoms of the flu, RSV, and COVID-19 are so similar,” said Dr. Maloney.

Symptoms for all three viruses include common cold-like symptoms such as:

  • runny/stuffy nose
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • overall fatigue or lack of energy

But there are a few symptoms that stand out for the flu, COVID-19, and RSV:

According to the Government of Canada, the sudden onset of the following symptoms can indicate someone is suffering from the flu: high fever cough muscle aches and pain In children, some other symptoms can include: not drinking or eating as usual not waking up or interacting with others irritable (not wanting to play or be held)  COVID-19 symptoms can include the above, but can also cause: a sudden loss of taste or smell gastrointestinal symptoms (nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain) dizziness For a full list of symptoms, please visit this website.RSV Symptoms in infants can be harder to spot. The only symptoms they might show are decreased activity, difficulty breathing, difficulty feeding and/or irritability. In children and adults, common symptoms include the above, as well as: rhinorrhea (thin, clear discharge from the nose) pharyngitis (inflammation of the pharynx resulting in a sore throat) bronchiolitis For more information, please visit this website

How you can care for your child at home and when to bring them to the Emergency Department

Cold and flu symptoms can often be treated at home, with rest, staying hydrated and using over-the-counter cold and flu medicine to help relieve fever and discomfort.

If you are struggling to find children’s cold and flu medicine, we encourage you to talk to your local pharmacist for alternatives.

Other at-home remedy options include:

  • a cold compress to reduce fever
  • children’s Tylenol or Advil

Parents and guardians know their children best, but sometimes it is difficult to know when you should seek health care services.

“Horizon Emergency Departments are always here for you during medical emergencies,” said Dr. Serge Melanson, Executive Clinical/Academic Head, Emergency Care for Horizon.

This infographic provides an overview of symptoms to look for that likely mean your child is experiencing a medical emergency and you should see emergency care OR when their symptoms are less emergent and you can continue to provide care at home.

If you have questions about what type of care your child requires, please call 811 or visit sowhywait.ca.

A note about antibiotics

When your child is sick, your first thought may be to ask a health care provider for antibiotics. However, antibiotics only treat bacterial infections, not viral infections such as COVID-19 or RSV. If you have questions about what type of care your child requires, please call 811.

Further resources

We encourage everyone to get their flu shot and ensure they stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep you and those around you safe.

To book an appointment to pick up COVID-19 rapid test kits, visit: https://horizonnb.ca/coronavirus-covid-19/covid-19-rapid-screening-kit-pickup-locations/.