WATERLOO, Iowa (KWWL) – This time of year is ripe with germs and illnesses. It can be hard to tell what will pass and what you should go to the doctor for. Is that just a cough in your child or is it RSV, croup or whooping cough?
These are three common childhood illnesses, with whooping cough making a comeback in recent years. The three are highly contagious, so it's important to understand them.
"It's just a cold to you or I. They're miserable anyway. But to an infant, it can be devastating,” said Tom Graham, a respiratory therapist at UnityPoint-Allen Hospital in Waterloo.
Nearly every child under the age of two will come into contact with RSV. For adults, it usually passes unnoticed. It can present more severe in children with a fever, wet cough and difficulty breathing.
"It's more like a cold to us. Remember children are nose-breathers so when their nose gets plugs, it's harder to breathe,” Graham said.
Both RSV and croup can usually be treated at home by treating the fever with Tylenol or Motrin. However if the symptoms worsen, you should seek help.
"Usually it passes on its own, but things you look out for is blueness around the lips,trouble breathing. A lot of times you'll see their ribs when they're trying to pull in air coughing,” he said.
The two will pass over the course of a few days. The scary part of the croup is the sound of the cough.
"As a parent, you're sitting there listening to your kid cough this barking seal sound. They get this musical noise when they breathe in and it's usually worse at night,” he said.
Many seasoned parents swear by treating croup with cold air at night. Graham said they might be right.
"It's not medically based, but cold air does tend to alleviate that swelling in the upper airway. Some parents will rush their child to the ER, they hit the cold air and when they get here, it's not as bad,” he said.
Whooping cough is more serious and can last weeks or months. It is easily preventable with a vaccine. It is characterized by the “whooping” sound produced when a child tries to inhale following a coughing fit.
UnityPoint has more information on the three illnesses here.