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Caring for Common Childhood Illnesses

Henry Ford doctor offers advice for treating the common cold, flu and ear infections in children

As a pediatrician who's been practicing since 1979, Dr. Anita Kumar has treated countless number of children for the cold, flu (influenza) and ear infections.

Cold and flu symptoms bring many infants and children to a pediatrician's office. Symptoms of a cold and flu can often overlap. The usual symptoms of the cold and flu are: fever, runny nose, sneezing, cough and sometimes a sore throat.

Dr. Anita Kumar, pediatrician at Henry Ford Medical Center-Sterling Heights

"The flu is usually accompanied by additional symptoms such as chills, body aches and high temperature," Dr. Kumar said. "A child with the flu often looks sicker in comparison to a child with a cold who can act normal and playful."

The flu is caused by different strains of the influenza virus and occurs most frequently during the winter and spring months, affecting adults and children alike. Although there is no good cure for the flu, it can be prevented by the flu vaccine, which is recommended for all children age 6 months to 5 years old.

"I think it's beneficial for children of all ages," Dr. Kumar said.

Colds, which are caused by several different viruses, occur all year long but are more frequent during the winter months. During the colder months children spend a lot of time indoors where it is easy for virus infections to spread from one child to another. It is not uncommon to see children in daycare sick with a new cold every few weeks.

"Parents should not be alarmed, and they do not need to bring their child to the pediatrician for every runny nose," Dr. Kumar said.

Parents can usually treat a cold at home with plenty of fluids and rest. If a child is still uncomfortable, parents can place a humidifier in the child's room to help clear up the congestion. With proper care, a common cold should resolve itself in about a week.

"In regards to medication, I recommend Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen in appropriate dosage for the fever," said Dr. Kumar. "Over the counter cough and cold remedies are not recommended for children under the age of 6 years. Antibiotics do not treat a cold and do not shorten the course of a cold."

It's important to call your pediatrician if your child becomes lethargic, does not drink enough fluids, gets an earache or worsening cough, has difficulty breathing, or if the fever persists longer than 24 hours.

Ear infections following a cold are common in children under age 3.

"Children with ear infections often present with increased crying, fussiness, waking up at night, fever, pain in the ear, and not wanting to suck on a bottle or pacifier," said Dr. Kumar. "Ear infections in infants and toddlers are generally treated with antibiotics."

After an ear infection, the fluid in the middle ear can persist for up to six weeks. Recurring ear infections can cause temporary loss of hearing. Since good hearing is critical for speech development, it is important to follow up with your pediatrician to make sure that the ear infection and fluid has cleared up. Fluid persisting in the ear may require a referral to an Ear, Nose and Throat (E.N.T) specialist.

Dr. Kumar joined Henry Ford Health System in 1990 after 11 years in private practice. She practices at Henry Ford Medical Center-Sterling Heights near Lakeside Mall and Henry Ford Medical Center-Chicago Road.

Henry Ford Health System Department of Pediatrics provides state-of-the-art health care to all patients. Our pediatricians are able to handle the unique and special medical concerns of children and consistently provide high quality care to each patient. To make an appointment with a Henry Ford pediatrician in your area, log on to henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD.

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