Sick and tired

Published 1:35 am Wednesday, January 7, 2009

It has all sorts of names — “the creepy crud,” “the blahs” — but no matter what people may call it, odds are someone will catch it, especially school-aged children.

“There are hundreds of thousands of respiratory viruses out there,” said Dr. Gabrielle Baldwin of Covington Pediatrics. “And generally, they all have the same symptoms — runny nose, nasal congestion, a wet cough. All the things needed to make a child feel really bad.”

Baldwin would know. Her office — where she practices along with Dr. Charles Eldridge, Dr. Stuart Foshee and nurse practitioner Cynthia Taylor — has been filled these past weeks with sick children experiencing respiratory illnesses.

Baldwin said her office has also seen an increase in ailments directly related to the changes in weather.

“One day it’s hot; the next it’s cold,” she said. “We have had a definite increase in what we call ‘wheezing ailments’ as well as asthma exacerbation because of the fluctuations in weather.”

Baldwin explained that changes in temperature, weather fronts and changes in barometric pressure can affect those with respiratory ailments.

“A 30 degree change — like where we have a series of warm days followed by a cold spell — can really play havoc with children,” she said. “Right now, the three big things people need to watch for is a chronic cough, a cough that worsens with exertion and fever.”

She said it is often difficult to treat those symptoms at home since the Food and Drug Administration has pulled cold and cough medicines for children under 6 off the market.

“The easy and best way to fight those symptoms is to wash your hands and cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze,” she said. “These viruses are what we call droplet spread, which means when you sneeze, it’s put out through the air and lands. Another person touches it, and there you go.”

Parents with children under 2 should beware, too.

“There are no meds over the counter for children under 2,” Baldwin said. “The FDA has taken them off the shelves and this time of the year, Wal-Mart and the grocery store are not a great place to be.

“Anytime you see someone coughing or sneezing, you and your children are being exposed to that virus, so beware,” she said.

Baldwin recommends the following preventative measures.

“Good hand washing is a must,” she said. “Nasal sprays are good to help with the congestion, as is a cool mist humidifier, and if the ailment doesn’t seem to respond after four or five days of home therapy, call a doctor. Especially call if there is a fever that lasts longer than 48 hours.”