The rainy season and its chilly temperatures can sometimes be a mixed blessing. While the cool weather brings respite from scorching heat, it can also be a harbinger of infections. This is particularly so in young children who have no immunity to most infections as they’ve never had them before. As the rains continue to pour, it behoves parents and guardians to protect their kids from some of these prevalent infections that assail the season.
Children are most likely to have colds during the rainy season. Although it is generally believed that when children stay in the rain it would cause them to contract the common cold, experts state that this is not so. “There are many different types of viruses that cause the common cold. In fact, there are presently over 200 different kinds of viruses that can cause the symptoms of a cold. The most common viruses that cause colds are called rhinoviruses. In order to catch a cold, your child must come in contact with someone else who is infected with the virus. The cold virus can be transmitted through the air in which case, when a person with a cold sneezes or coughs, small amounts of the virus can go into the air. Then, if your child breathes in that air, the virus will adhere to your child’s nasal membrane. It can also be contracted through direct contact whereby your child directly touches a person that is infected and touches their nose, mouth, and eyes. It is important to know that viruses can be spread through objects, such as toys, that have been previously touched by someone with a cold. The increased incidence of colds during the rainy season may be attributed to the fact that more children are indoors and close to each other. This allows for easier transmission. In addition, the humidity drops during this season, making the nasal passages drier and more vulnerable to infection. Although children should not be left to play in the rain, but being in the rain or being chilled is not enough to cause the common cold,” Dr Olabisi Akinola, a Lagos-based paediatrician said.
Common cold is characterised by symptoms such as a runny nose, swelling of the lining of the nose which can cause congestion, sneezing and cough.
When a child has the common cold, ease the symptoms by increasing the amount of fluid your child normally drinks; encouraging the whole family to wash their hands regularly to stop the cold spreading; increasing fruits intake to boost immunity; and in the case of a fever, pain or discomfort, administer paracetamol according to age and dosage. Dr Akinola adds that because the common cold is caused by a virus, it would most likely get better by itself in five to seven days. He cautions against the use of antibiotics for the treatment of common cold as the cold which is caused by virus cannot respond to bacterial treatment.
When a child is exposed to the virus that causes common cold, sometimes complications could arise. One of such is the risk of ear infections. “You would observe that after a bout of the cold, the child may still have high temperature and might pull, rub the ears or complain of pain or discomfort in the ear. Because we don’t want our children to be in such a state of unease, we may be in a hurry to try out whatever will give them relief. But parents are advised to not put any oil, eardrops or cotton buds into the child’s ear unless as advised by a doctor. Worse still is giving the child antibiotics without the doctor’s prescription. Besides the grave danger of self-medicating on antibiotics, most ear infections arising from a cold are caused by viruses, which can’t be treated with antibiotics. As with the cold virus, they run their course and the child will get better by themselves. If you are still concerned, it is better to visit the hospital. Prevent ear infections from a cold by protecting your child from catching the cold virus,” Dr Adetokunbo Ajayi, a medical practitioner at the Idiape Medical Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State, said.
A common throat infection that accompanies the cold is strep throat, or streptococcal pharyngitis which is an infection of the throat and tonsils caused by the group A streptococcus bacteria. Although strep throat can occur anytime of the year, the incidence always increases in the rainy season especially when children are in close contact at school.
It is spread by contact with an infected person through sneezing, coughing, or shaking hands and the common symptoms include fever, sore throat with difficulty swallowing, headache and stomachache. Experts say runny nose and cough are not usually associated with strep throat and when this occurs, it could suggest the cause of the illness might be viral.
Dr Irene Bassey, a medical practitioner with Orbitals Clinic, Ibadan, Oyo State, said, “A child with strep throat will present with swollen red tonsils covered with pus, a white coating on the tongue and enlarged lymph nodes in the neck. Because other viruses also can lead to swollen red tonsils covered with pus, it is important that laboratory testing be done to determine if a child has strep throat. Testing is done by swabbing the throat. The bacteria that causes strep throat is very sensitive to antibiotics and can easily be treated with a medication by mouth or a single shot. However, certain precautions need to be taken in the use of antibiotics. First, take antibiotics as prescribed. Secondly, finish the full course of antibiotics. Thirdly, don’t use the prescription for another child.”
Experts say the importance of treating strep throat, and especially of completing the full course of therapy, is that strep throat can lead to more serious complications, including rheumatic fever, post-streptococcal glomerulomephritis (a kidney problem) and streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
Protect your kids
As much as possible, take proper preventive measures to protect your kids. Some key steps in preventing the transmission and spread of infections include keeping your child away from a person with a cold (this includes ensuring proper ventilation and turning off the AC which can contribute to stopping the quick spread of the virus); encouraging your child to wash his or her hands frequently and properly and not to touch his or her mouth, eyes, or nose until their hands are washed (proper washing of hands goes beyond just running hands under water for a few seconds. This is not enough to kill germs. Wet hands and lather up. Scrub hands front and back, between fingers and under fingernails. Continue for at least 20 seconds); making sure toys and play areas are properly cleaned, especially if multiple children are playing together; including more fruits especially Vitamin-C-rich fruits in meals to help boost immunity and fight infections.