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Caring for children with respiratory illness and fevers

Monday December 5, 2022

  • Emergency
  • Families and Babies

As paediatric illnesses rise and Ontario urges health precautions to help keep children safe, we want to make sure families and our community have the information and resources they need to be informed.

Learn how to protect yourself and family, tips to care for children with respiratory illness and when you should take a child to the Emergency Department.

How to protect yourself and your family

Follow these prevention measures to help prevent getting sick:

  • Wear a mask, and have your child wear a mask, in public indoor settings.
  • Get the flu vaccine and keep COVID-19 vaccinations up-to-date.
  • Wash hands often and thoroughly or use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
  • Stay home, and keep your child home, when unwell.

Vaccinations remain the best form of protection against COVID-19 and influenza. We encourage anyone who is eligible and has not received their full dose of vaccination, including boosters, to do so as soon as possible to help protect themselves and their community.

Tips for caring for children with respiratory illnesses

Most respiratory illness in children can be managed at home without prescription medications. Try to keep your child comfortable and treat their symptoms. Water, soups, sports drinks, and even popsicles can help your child get enough fluids. If your baby only drinks breastmilk or formula, that is enough for them and they don’t need additional water. Many children will be less hungry when they are sick and not interested in eating. It’s okay if your child eats fewer solid foods for a few days.

If your child needs to see a doctor and you are unable to get an appointment, Southlake’s COVID-19, Cold and Flu Clinic is available for in-person assessment of moderate COVID-19, cold or flu symptoms by a clinician.

Here are some ways to support your child’s symptoms at home if they have COVID-19, flu, or RSV:

  • Fevers can help activate your immune system and fight illness. If your child feels fine, there is no need to treat a fever.
  • Focus less on the actual temperature of your child (there is no link with severity of illness and degree of fever) but rather on how your child is behaving. Children that remain lethargic or listless even when you treat the fever should be assessed. Those that bounce back when the fever is treated with medicine can be managed at home.
  • If your child is fussy, vomiting or uncomfortable, treat with over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil).
  • If you cannot find pediatric versions of these medications, you can consult this helpful chart made by Southlake’s Pharmacy team to administer partial doses of adult medicines.
  • If your child is over 3 months of age and has a fever that lasts for more than three days, they should see a health care provider.
  • If your child is under 3 months of age and has a fever, they should be assessed by a health care provider.
  • If you cannot find pediatric versions of these medications, you can consult these helpful charts made by our Pharmacy team to administer partial doses of adult medicines:
  • This is usually a symptom of viral illness, especially if your child also has cold symptoms and does not require antibiotics.
  • You can reduce discomfort with warm compresses and artificial tears.
  •  Use saline (salt water) rinsing sprays, a humidifier, or a nasal aspirator/snot sucker.
  • Most ear infections are viral and usually go away on their own within a few days.
  • Your child should see a health care provider if their earache lasts more than 48-72 hours, if there is discharge from the ear or if your child has had more than two to three ear infections in the last year.
  • A humidifier or steam from a shower may help.
  • Warm drinks can help soothe the throat and so can a spoonful of honey for children over one year old.
  • Don’t give over-the-counter cough and cold medicines to children younger than six years old.
  • If the cough sounds like a bark and is worse at night, it is likely a croup cough and cool air can help. Bundle up yourself and child and go outside into the cool air.
  • If your child is struggling with breathing, you should visit the Emergency Department. Otherwise, plan to follow-up with a health care provider as there is an excellent single dose treatment (Dexamethasone) for croup cough that will help reduce the chances of a second night of coughing.

When should you take a child to the Emergency Department?

Southlake’s Emergency Department is open, safe, and available to care for those who need immediate care. If you have a serious medical concern, please come to our Emergency Department.

No one knows their child better than their parents or guardian so please seek care if you are worried about their health. Unsure if your child is in need of emergency care? Here are some general examples:

  • If you are worried that your child is seriously ill
  • If your baby younger than three months old has a fever
  • If you child is struggling to breathe or breathing faster than normal
  • If you are concerned that your child is at risk of dehydration or is dehydrated